2020 condensed

2020 is over and a new year is waiting to be discovered in all its possibilities. To be able to plan my upcoming year I want to look back at what has happened fiber wise in the past year. If you have been following me for a while you can revisit 2020 with me. If you are new here – a warm welcome – you have the chance to catch up on what has happened. This is 2020 condensed.

From all of me to all of you: Happy new spinning year 2021!

“It’s New Year’s Day. 2021 is on. May s he bring us peace, health, light and love. And wool. May she bring us wool. Happy spinning. Happy new year!” It’s 3.5 degrees Celsius in the water and 2.5 in the air and a lovely day for a morning bath.

Stash and grab

In the first month I focused on reducing my handspun stash. I had spun a lot that I hadn’t really found a project for and the handspun cupboard was bursting in its hinges. The burstiness (it’s a word) stressed me and I realized I needed to do something about it. I made lots of projects of these neglected skeins and leftover balls and we use practically all of them daily.

During the autumn of 2019 I had already started a project and I finished it in January. In the stash I had lots of naah yarn and warp thrum. My first stash busting project was seven woven chair pads with rya knots. All in all I used 1 kilo of stashed handspun yarn for warp, weft and rya knots for seven chair pads. The satisfaction! And we use them every day. I also got on a band weaving frenzy and made five handspun bands with a small rigid heddle in a few winter weeks. And suddenly I realized how much you need hand woven bands.

Years ago I started a stash busting blanket project. I had woven 10×10 cm pin loom squares of odd balls of handspun and finally got to a blanket worthy amount. Read about my blanket, and while you are at it, check out Anna’s pin loom blanket project too! She spun her squares on a medieval spindle specifically for the blanket and it looks beautiful.

With lots of skeins of Navajo spindle spun bulky singles I wove a curtain with a loose sett with the singles as weft and commercial flax yarn as warp. I used an old sheet as a background and mended a hole with a flea market lace ribbon.

A follower asked me to write about how my handspun garments have worn and matured and so I wrote a portrait of a sweater I spun and knit in 2014–2015. Later I also made a post about mending a pair of much loved nalbinding socks.

I have mended lots of other things during the year and I always feel very satisfied doing it. The rest of the family also turn to mending now rather than discarding something that is broken or worn.

Breed studies and webinars

During the past year I have written blog posts about the wool from four different Swedish sheep breeds – finull, Jämtland, rya and Klövsjö wool. I have also managed to live stream three of them in live breed study webinars. Making the breed study webinar takes a lot of time – around 10 hours for one webinar. I am nervous all day before a live stream, but once I go live I love being with you and learning through your questions. So thank you for showing up at my webinars. We are doing this together!

Backstrap weaving

In the beginning of the year I took a few courses in backstrap weaving. Since then I have started to explore this beautiful way of weaving where you as the weaver are also a part of the loom. Being so close to the weaving process has made me understand and respect it on a deeper level. During the year I have woven a weaving bag, a camera strap, a belt bag and a stick wrap on my backstrap loom. At the end of the year I also published the video Weaving with the trees where I weave on a backstrap loom in the northernmost corner of Sweden.

Tech tips

I have tried to blog about how I work with different tools and techniques. One of my most important and foundational concepts that I teach in every class is opening up the twist to achieve an easier draft and less strain. In Finding a fleece I walk you through a lots of useful tips to find fleece to work with. Don’t miss these two blog posts!

I am a happy beginner at embroidery, but I did manage to spin a lovely embroidery yarn as my contribution to the 2020 Swedish spinning championships. The skein gave me a gold medal. In this post I walk you through the rules of the championships and how I spun the yarn.

During the fall I have been experimenting with sock yarn and found a way to spin a cable yarn with a rya/mohair mix. I gave my husband a promise of socks from this yarn in a colour and model of his choice for Christmas. Still, I am sure there will be enough yarn for another couple of socks too.

A couple of videos with tech tips have left the editing board as well. In the beginning of the year I released a video where I spin by a lake from the cut end of flicked locks. A bit later a video where I spin on a Portuguese spindle in the forest. In the early fall I finished a lovely video where I spin on a great wheel in costume at the manor hall of Vallby outdoor museum (Swedish version here).

Meditations

As a way of developing my writing and opening up to a more personal way of expressing myself and my fiber journey I have been experimenting with what I call meditations. In these I let my sensations steer my process with both fiber and words and just enjoy the ride. Read about the knowledge of the hand and my relationship to the morning. Find peace with my warping and fleece meditations.

Teaching

As for many other teachers a lot of my planned courses have been cancelled this year due to Covid. I was however one of the lucky ones who was able to teach at Sätergläntan in the course I call A spindle a day.

I did launch a couple of courses in my online school. The free five-day challenge Fleece through the senses became a huge success from the start. So far 444 people have taken the course and contributed with their explorations and experimentation. Later I launched the course Know your fleece – a course about going deep into your fleece to find its soul.

The crisis has opened many people’s eyes to different ways of communicating. In early July I was invited to a zoom meeting with a spinning guild in the east coast of Australia at 6:30 in the morning. In December I was hired as a speaker at a guild meeting in Washington state in the U.S.

Writing

Apart from the 52 blog posts I have written in other contexts too. I love writing articles for spinning magazines since it makes me explore and challenge my writing even more. For Spin-Off I have written about Textile heritage and how I teach at Sätergläntan. I also published the Sweater pattern Selma Margau for Spin-Off. And of course I didn’t miss the PLY Support spindle issue. I wrote an article I simply call the Flick. In the beginning of the year the Swedish craft magazine Hemslöjd featured me and my spindles in an article.

My contribution to Sara Wolf’s book Knit (spin) Sweden has been taking up a lot of time, energy and love this year. The book is at the printer’s as we speak (a bit delayed due to Covid). You can preorder the book if you want to make sure not to miss it. A Swedish translation is in the pipeline as well.


A large part of the work I do is free and my goal is to keep it that way. If you want to support my creative work and make sure it can go on in a sustainable way, do consider becoming a patron at my Patreon page. You can pick a monthly payment of your choice. A new feature is the possibility to pay annually and get two months for free.


Happy spinning in 2021!

You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

Combing different fiber lengths

At the moment I have around 20 fleeces waiting to be spun. It is not always easy but I try to work them in order – first in first out. I have had to give up on some fleeces that have gone brittle and stale. The other day I finished a Gute fleece and next in line is a beautiful finull/rya cross that got a silver medal in the 2018 fleece championships. In this post I show you how I am combing different fiber lengths.

The finull/rya fleece has the most beautiful locks. They are more rya-like in their appearance, but still soft like finull. The outercoat is long and silky and the undercoat soft like cashmere. The draft feels like a luxurious night cream.

Finull/rya lamb's wool
My finull/rya fleece when I bought it at the auction at the 2018 fleece championships.

Cookie Monster wants all the cookies

One of the reasons why I have procrastinated for so long with this fleece is that I really didn’t know how to bring out the superpowers in it. Should I go for shine or softness? To get the shine my choice would have been to comb the wool and spin it worsted and for softness I would have opted for carding and woolen spinning. But deep down the Cookie Monster wanted all of it – both shine and softness.

To get both shine and softness in one yarn takes some planning and testing. Since this yarn was so soft I decided to go for a combing preparation – I figured that the wool was soft enough to still result in a soft yarn.

Combing different fiber lengths

After having read an article in the fall 2020 issue of Spin-Off magazine I knew what to do. Kim McKenna writes in her article Wool combing and the importance of planking about how to comb more evenly for a strong worsted yarn. My goal for this fleece isn’t a strong worsted yarn, but I think the technique will suit my goal perfectly – I want to make sure the fibers are as evenly distributed as possible.

Choosing a comb

Since the fleece I work with has quite a lot of different fiber lengths I want to make sure they are as evenly distributed as I can manage. Therefore I use a single pitched pair of mini combs. Using two-pitched combs may result in more of a separation between the fiber lengths.

Loading

I load the combs with the cut end as close to the tines as I can. I try not to load more than a third of the height of the tines. Too much wool will make it tougher on my hands and arms. It will also give me an uneven result.

First combing

I comb five passes, starting with the outermost part of the tip ends. If I go further in it will be more work and more waste. I use a circular motion – horizontal for the first pass, vertical for the second and then horizontal again. To save my wrists and shoulders I lock the arm of my stationary comb against the side of my torso.

I start combing at the very tip of the staples.

After the fifth pass I doff the wool off the comb in one continuous length. I pull both left, right and center to make the pulling motion easier on my hand. A lot of very short fibers are still on the comb, but they are too short to spin and I use them for other things.

I pull the fiber off the comb in one continuous length.

Planking and second combing

The resulting length now has most of the long fibers in one end and most of the short fibers in the other, which I don’t want. Therefore I divide the lengths into three to four shorter lengths and put them back onto the comb for a second combing. This is the planking part.

I divide the continuous length into shorter lengths and put them back onto the comb.

I comb another three passes to even out the fibers again. The motions are now very light since nothing is sticking to the combs anymore.

Three more light passes after the first combing.

Dizzing

I pull off the fibers through a diz and make a bird’s nest. Had I owned a pair of single-pitched combs with a combing station I would have used them for this step. Pinching the comb between my thighs isn’t ideal. The position isn’t very good for my back and my legs are far from relaxed.

I use a small dizzing hole since I want to spin a fairly fine yarn. There is still an uneven distribution of the fibers, but much more even than after the first time. The quality is also higher than after the first pass – I see no uneven parts and no nepps in the dizzed roving.

With a roving as well prepared as this the spinning feels very light. With the second combing the preparation takes more time, but I win it back when I spin and use the yarn.

Spinning a fiber as well prepared as this is a pure joy.

Since I combed the wool twice and dizzed the yarn gets very evenly spun and I find a relaxed focus behind the spinning wheel.

A Cookie Monster yarn

The yarn is finished. I 2-plied it and washed it last night and this morning it has dried by the air source heat pump over night.The yarn is very evenly spun and shiny. It is not as soft as I had hoped, but I still think I can wear it next to skin, perhaps as a shawl in some sort of lace pattern. Looking at it I realize that all the short fibers I removed were a part of the softness I imagined when I analyzed the staples. But there is not much I could have done here – had I kept the short fibers in the yarn they would have crept out of it sooner or later and created nepps. Still, I love the result. Considering that there still are different fiber lengths in the yarn it wouldn’t have been this even had I not planked after the first combing.

I made a video of the combing process. This time the video is available for patrons only. You can become a patron here.

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.

A journey

Pia-Lotta the sheep and mittens from her fleece. Photo by Dan Waltin

This week a nine year old picture of a bag of Swedish finewool popped up in my Facebook feed. The picture showed of my very first fleece on my very first spinning lesson. It was also the very first time I ever held a spindle in my hand. A lot has happened since then. In this post I walk you through some of the highlights from this journey.

A bag of wool from Pia-Lotta the Swedish finewool sheep.

My friend Anna is my husband’s colleague. At an office get-together Anna and I talked about knitting. She mentioned that an acquaintance of hers had sheep but didn’t know what to do with the wool. The acquaintance also said that a large amount of Swedish wool was wasted (I think the number at the time was around 80 per cent), or even burnt. This was shocking to me and I looked up an evening spinning class that Anna and I signed up for.

A ram and his lamb

Meanwhile there was a Swedish finewool ram called Muffe. He fathered many lambs, one of which was called Pia-Lotta. For some reason kids were bullying Muffe. He got very stressed and had to be put to sleep for this reason. Muffe had been very loved by his Shepherdess Ulla.

Ulla had not planned to keep the lamb Pia-Lotta. But when Ulla saw Pia-Lotta on her way to the truck that was going to the butcher’s she saw so much of Muffe in Pia-Lotta that she couldn’t bare losing her too. Pia-Lotta got to stay on the farm.

It was at the farm where Pia-Lotta lived that the spinning course took place every other Tuesday evening and it was Pia-Lotta’s fleece that ended up in my bags on that first spinning lesson. After that I have got two more of her fleeces, one of which I shore myself.

Me shearing the Swedish finewool (finull) sheep Pia-Lotta.
Me shearing the finull sheep Pia-Lotta in the beginning of my spinning journey.

The journey of a fleece

I got very fascinated by the journey the fleece made from newly shorn to a finished textile. Since the world of wool and this process was all new to me I was totally smitten by it. I wanted to tell the world what a beautiful thing spinning and the process from fluff to stuff was. So I did. I made a video that became a two year project. During that time I shot the whole process from the newly shorn sheep (Pia-Lotta) to a finished sweater where I showed all the steps – sorting, washing, teasing, carding/combing, spinning, knitting and assembling. I called the video Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater.

Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater. Also available in Swedish: Slow fashion – från får till tröja.

The sweater that was the product of the project is one of my favourites. It has a lot of flaws that I have learned from and I know so much more now. But it was at the same time so much better than the first skeins I spun from the very same wool (the white yarn in the sweater comes from Pia-Lotta).

Fileuse by Valérie Miller.

A learning journey

We all learn every second. New experiences come to us all through the course of our lives. We build on that experience and develop our skills. Just as every single one of you I started from the beginning. In fact, I start from the beginning every day.

Pia-Lotta the sheep and mittens from her fleece. Photo by Dan Waltin
Pia-Lotta the sheep and mittens from her fleece. Before I knit them I learned to knit both mittens at the same time to get the same size. Since I knit them I have learned to spin with higher twist for two-end knitting to avoid yarn breaks every time I untwisted the skein. Photo by Dan Waltin

Every time I pick up a spinning project – new or old – I start from the beginning of that particular day. When the day is over I have learned new things that I bring to tomorrow’s beginning. And it goes on. I still make mistakes, only different ones than nine years ago. And I still learn from them and look upon them as a map of what I have learned.

By the way, I write this particular paragraph in the morning. I would never have thought something this clever in the evening. Just saying.

Making videos

Slow fashion became the real boost of my then newborn youtube channel. The video is still one of my most popular ones with over 17000 views. When I look at it my heart tingles. It tingles from how much the video means to me and from all I see that I have learned since then. I have learned about shooting, angles, locations, light, sound, editing and, of course, spinning and wool preparation. But it all started there, with that idea of sharing the process of the wool and what it did for me with the world.

A journey on a train

I started spinning on a supported spindle because my family’s decision to stop flying gave me a long train journey to my father’s family in Austria. I wanted a craft that I could dive in to on those hours gliding through the landscape. So I practiced supported spinning daily from November until we got on the train in July. That moment when I finally placed the spinning bowl in my lap and started spinning was magical. My then ten year old son helped me shoot a short video somewhere in Denmark.

A teaching journey

That train journey became the starting point of teaching for me. Spinners in Sweden were fascinated with the technique and soon someone asked me to teach supported spinning. I can’t resist flattery, so I did it, knowing nothing at all about teaching. Now, several teaching hours later, teaching spinning is one of my favourite things to do in the world. Finding a student’s learning style and watching someone understand, learn and love a technique is pure joy. Through teaching spinning I learn more than through any other means. So thank you all past, present and future students for teaching me how to be a better teacher, student and spinner.

A few courses have been cancelled during the pandemic, but in a couple of weeks I will teach a weekend course again and I can’t wait. There are still spots left in a course in floor supported Navajo style spindle spinning in Stockholm on November 7–8 and of course you can check out my online school. One of my favorite right now is the five day challenge Fleece through the senses. I have learned a lot through all your stories there.

An inner journey

I am still smitten by the journey the fleece makes from fluff to stuff, but today that infatuation has grown into a more mature kind of love.

The most important part of my spinning journey has been the inner journey. Spinning has taught me to appreciate the wool I see before me. I just need to find the superpowers of that particular fleece and make them shine. I have learned to be thankful to the wool I work with and for being able to work with wool.

Wool is an inner journey for me.

Working with wool is my safe space. It is a place where I can relax, find focus and balance. The world is always beautiful when I work with wool. If it is not, the wool will get me to that place of beauty soon enough.

When I spin the doors to creativity open and I see and understand things that have been blurred before. The feeling of the wool in my hands, the rhythm of the wheel or spindle, the repetitive motions of the drafting. It is a place where I find the space between my thoughts and relax in the here and now. And I thank wool for that.

Happy spinning!

/Josefin, spinning student and teacher


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Spinning on a great wheel

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

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

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

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

Getting access

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

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

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

The manor hall

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

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

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

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

Period costume

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

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

Shooting

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

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

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

Wool prep

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

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

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

Great wheels

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

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

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

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

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

Spinning on a great wheel

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

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

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

Spinning by colour

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

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

Dancing the great wheel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

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.