The comfort of wool

It has been a turbulent year. So much has happened that few of us could imagine before it was on our doorstep. This spring has been crazy on a personal level, with loved ones receiving life changing diagnoses, needing support. Wool allows me to find pause and perspective. Through the comfort of wool – Åsen wool this time – I discover creativity, adventure and new perspectives.

The comfort of wool – through warmth, security and process.

The comfort of wool in the storm

When the world storms around me I find my comfort in wool. When loved ones worry I worry about their worry (how crazy is that?). I find my comfort in wool. Clouds of fluttery thoughts swarm in my mind – I need to remember… What if… How do I prioritize… – I find my comfort in wool.

The safe smell of sheep. The warm feeling against my skin. The fibers working side by side for strength, warmth and structure. Ever tolerant, patient and kind.

From structure to chaos and back to structure again.

Project and process

The process gives me comfort – the rhythm of preparing and spinning the wool. The transformation from structured staples, through chaotic clouds, back to increasingly structured shapes again only to start another adventure in the process of becoming a fabric.

Project and process, both give me comfort in the storm.

Project and process. All wool and all giving me the gift of comfort. Of course the finished object too, but there is so much more to a pair of cozy mittens than just the pair of cozy mittens. Not only do I find warmth and comfort in the mittens on a cold winter’s day – the physical warmth they give me also bring me a spiritual warmth through the memory of the making. The reminiscence of impressions through the making. A place, a scent, a thought, a mood.

I find creativity, adventure and new perspectives through the comfort of wool.

The fiber of many gifts

Wool is my comfort zone, while at the same time being a place for expansion, discovery and art.

  • I find my creativity in wool. With all the shapes this remarkable fiber can take, why couldn’t I?
  • I find adventure in wool. What happens if I take a new approach, try a new technique or just plain and simple break the rules?
  • I find new perspectives in wool. There is always a new way to look at wool that I haven’t experienced yet. What will I learn today?

With the comfort of wool I turn my what ifs from worry to curiosity, from dragons to flee to dragons to tame, from close mindedness to an open heart. Through the material and through the making of the material. Come join me!

I gain new perspectives through all the parts of the process.

Today I will work with plant based materials. Still creating, still discovering and still learning from my mistakes. I might tell you about it in another post.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Break the rules

Nalbinding straight off the spindle, breaking the rules of soaking and finishing.

This week I have been rehearsing for tonight ‘s breed study webinar on Åsen wool. I felt a need to spin a nalbinding yarn from one of my Åsen fleeces. To be able to nalbind something to show you and on time I broke the rules, and I liked it.

It’s happening tonight, dear readers, we’re having a breed study webinar on Åsen wool. If you haven’t already, do register for the webinar.

To prepare, I have been rehearsing a few times, with notes, light, sound, tech and tools in order. As a bonus I have given myself the opportunity to get to know the fleeces I will be demonstrating for you.

Break the rules

I got a little carried away with one of the fleeces, though. I wanted to talk about the fleece as a perfect candidate for nalbinding. In this, I realized I needed to have some nalbinding to show you. So I quickly teased, carded and spun some more and plied together with the yarn I had spun on my rehearsals. I wound the yarn into a thumb ball and started nalbinding straight away. No singles resting, no soaking, no finishing. Just straight off the plying spindle.

Nalbinding with love

Nalbinding is for me quite an intimate textile technique. You hold the project in your hand and work very slowly, hands literally entangled in the nalbinding process. The hands get all soft and smooth from the lanolin in the yarn. Since this yarn came straight off the spindle it had more lanolin than usual. It also had the loveliest smell of sheep.

Nalbinding straight off the spindle, breaking the rules of soaking and finishing.
Nalbinding straight off the spindle, breaking the rules of soaking and finishing. I carved the needle from and elm tree just outside the window.

This made me feel even closer to the wool and the slow nalbinding process. The nalbinding technique is very old. With the yarn in such a raw state I felt even closer to the history of nalbinding and a sense of gratitude towards the technique. I enjoyed every over and under of the wooden needle and every loop around my thumb. I imagined the mittens wrapping my hands in wooly love, fulled to fit my hands in a warm embrace. With a simple spindle spun yarn I made a sleeping bag for my hands to snuggle up in, with my hands. Breaking the rules gave me an experience that stretched so much further than the nalbinding project itself. I am so grateful for this.

Spinning for nalbinding in the magical light of May.
Spinning for nalbinding in the magical light of May.

Go ahead and break a rule today, and see what you learn from it.

A short post today. Still, longer than the no post at all that I had planned for.

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.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Flax plan

Since 2014 I have had an experimental flax patch of around 1 square meter. The sole purpose of the patch has been to learn about flax husbandry and preparation. The results have varied in quality. I have said to myself that I will spin my flax when I think the quality is good enough or when I think I deserve to. This year I will stop procrastinating and start spinning. I have a flax plan!

The experimental flax patch

My first year wasn’t really part of the experiment, at least not when I started. I bought some flax seeds to grow as a companion plant for carrots and potatoes. As the season turned I decided to harvest the flax and go through all the processing steps. My tools were less than ideal – a rock for brake and a spatula for scutching. I did get a hackle, though! I used a pillowcase and a rolling pin to ripple the seeds (a method I have used until last season when I build a ripple myself).

Through the years I have sometimes processed my tiny flax harvest at Skansen open air museum. I have also got hold of all the tools – brake, scutching board and scutching knives, a fine hackle and a flax brush, plus the ripple I built.

The resulting bundles of processed flax through the years have been of very varying quality. But I have learned something new every year, just as I intended.

One square meter of flax

Last year, Västra Götaland region in Sweden started the project 1kvmlin, one square meter of flax. Anyone in the region could, to no charge, get a bag of flax seeds enough for one square meter. In a Facebook group the participants could learn from each other. I think there were also flax processing workshops. The project was a success. This year all regions in Sweden participated. I planted my patch this week and I might plant another square meter in our allotment.

I love the community feeling of a project like this. Individuals, schools, organizations and others get involved in an activity that once was an industry that thrived and, sadly, died.

A flax plan

Through the years I have saved my processed flax and put it away. I have told myself that I would spin it when the quality was good enough. But how would I know that unless I tried? So many people all over Sweden are trying this, with far less experience than I have. So I’m jumping in now, extending my experimental flax patch to experimental flax spinning. My flax plan this summer is to spin.

Other flax sources

I have spun flax before, just not my own. I bought one kilo of processed flax from Växbo lin, a linen weaving mill situated in an area with a very long flax and linen tradition. The flax they use, though comes from France and Belgium. The Swedish flax industry died in the late 19th century due to import of cotton.

Spinning flax at the balcony in 2017. Note the distaff – a real flax distaff placed in the tube my blocking wires came in. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I do have flax that was processed in Sweden, though. My brother’s mother-in-law Birgitta was brought up in the heart of one of the the traditional flax regions in Sweden. Her parents grew flax and sent it for processing. She has saved it and recently asked if I wanted it. When she first asked me I didn’t know the story of her flax. I remembered all the unspun flax I had an declined her kind offer. When she told me the story and that it was old flax from her childhood home I immediately changed my mind. This was a true treasure.

The processing mill Birgitta mentioned was active between 1943 and 1953, so The flax from her parents’ home must have been processed at this time. Birgitta doesn’t spin herself, but she has woven from the flax from her childhood home. She remembers her grandmother spinning.

Summer plans

So, my plan is to spin flax this summer. As many of you know there is a lot of dust involved when spinning flax and I don’t want to subject myself to that. Therefore I will only spin it outdoors, which leaves summer to spin. Our terrace is the place I flee to in the afternoon when it gets too hot for me in the sun in the front of the house.

If I get the courage I will also spin the tow. I have no experience with this, so my plan is to create my own experience. You’ve got to start somewhere. These are sentences I tell my students and it’s time I listen to the teacher.

Flax videos

In the video Spinning flax on a spindle I show you how I prepare the processed flax for the distaff and how I spin it on an in-hand spindle. For some odd reason this is by far my most watched video. There is also a lovely video where I process my flax at Skansen open air museum.

Flax blog posts

The easiest way to find earlier blog posts about flax is to use the search field and type flax. Below are some of my favourite flax posts.

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.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Happy hands

Crafting hands are happy hands.

Lately I have thought a lot about crafting and what it does to people, and for people. A long time ago people crafted out of necessity, to clothe their families and keep them safe. I craft because I want to, but also because my hands and my brain need to. Crafting gives me happy hands, heart and brain. In that sense I craft out of necessity too, but perhaps for different reasons. What would happen if we didn’t craft or didn’t even learn how tho craft?

Last weekend I taught a class in floor supported Navajo style spinning. I am always very excited about teaching live. The anticipation is high – what will I learn from my students this time? My heart sings when I get to take part of a student’s learning process. It sings just as much when I learn about how my students learn, only in a different key.

My spindles take the bus to the spinning class. Floor supported spindles by Björn Peck.
My spindles take the bus to the spinning class. Floor supported spindles by Björn Peck (and one from Roosterick).

A crafting classroom is a beautiful place to be in, both physically and mentally. It is filled with makers and creators. People who learn about a craft and who learn through the craft.

The crafting bubble

A few years ago I attended a crafting leadership course. We met once a month with a new theme and a new craft. Once the theme, the technique and the materials had been presented, total silence spread through the room. Every student was in their craft and in their crafting. I call it the crafting bubble. I am sure you all have been there. When time and space disappears and all focus is on the material in your hands and the process of making.

One of the students is transferring her yarn from the upper to the lower cop.
One of this weekend’s students is transferring the spun yarn from the upper to the lower cop.

The course I taught this weekend was no exception. After every introduction to a new topic or technique all you could hear was the buzz of the spindle tips against the bowls on the floor. It is a comforting silence. The silence of creativity and peace.

A second bubble

While there is a crafting bubble around the person crafting I often experience a second crafting bubble when I teach or otherwise craft with other people. Sooner or later there will be a conversation in the room. I find these conversations gentle and loving. I believe crafting does that to people. Crafting to me is peaceful. It’s like there is a mutual understanding of the good of crafting. The air and the thoughts are safe to breathe. I usually hold the conversations of this second crafting bubble close to my heart. I get to take part in other people’s lives and loves. It is a beautiful place.

One of my students was a total beginner. This was the very first yarn he carded and spun.
One of my students was a total beginner. I don’t think he had never held a spinning tool in his hands before. This was the very first yarn he carded and spun.

Empowerment through crafting

I feel rich when I spin. I can make something useful with my hands. There are so many things we take for granted. Things we can easily buy. But in making things I feel a sense of empowerment – I can make things that are useful. In case of disaster I can clothe my family and keep my loved ones warm. I believe this feeling of empowerment through crafting is a feeling everybody should be able to feel at least once in their life. The feeling of some sort of self sufficiency through their hands, some simple tools and natural materials.

Crafting in school

Crafting, or slöjd, (sloyd, one of the few Swedish loanwords in English) is a subject that was was established in the Swedish school system in 1878 and is still a mandatory subject. Until 1962 girls learned textile crafts and boys wooden crafts, but since then all children learn both soft and hard crafts. The word slöjd actually comes from the word slug, which means sly, skilled or handy. Sloyd is smart. Can someone please print a T-shirt with that sentence?

Every now and then debates about the existence of this school subject emerge. Why spend time sewing and carving when you can focus on more important subjects like history or maths? This iss a common argument. But what would happen if we didn’t learn how to make things, how to mend, create or see the potential in a piece of cloth or wood? How would our brains look if we didn’t nurture what I believe is an inherent need to create with our hands? In 2018 a doctor concluded that the medical students’ dexterity in stitching up patients had decreased significantly during the past few years. He believed the reason to be too much swiping and too little fine motor crafting skills. Again, sloyd is smart.

From fluff to stuff

There is something special about following the process from a natural material, through a transformation and all the way to a useful item. The craft in progress, from the roots in the ground underneath a spruce or birch to a finished basket, from the newly shorn wool to a knitted garment (perhaps to put in the basket). To see the change in shape and fashion through your own hands. Watch the pile of shavings below the carving knife grow and a loom bar take shape. To know that I can make that transformation happen right there, in and with my hands. This helps me understand and respect the material and the knowledge of the maker of a hand crafted item.

I find this process especially magical when I use the most simple tools. A spindle to create yarn, a backstrap loom made of hand carved sticks to weave. There is a special kind of closeness to the craft and the crafting when my body is part of the process. The way I control speed and tension of the spindle with my hands and how my body is part of the backstrap loom. It reminds me that the craft and the crafting is within me.

Happy hands

My hands are happy when they craft. My hands are in the craft just as much as the crafting is in my hands. I am in my happy hands. The making in my hands nurture my brain while the brain processes what is happening in the making. From hands to brain and back again. Crafting feels right. I can make things with my hands and I use the knowledge of making for good things.

Crafting hands are happy hands.
Crafting hands are happy hands.

I can see and feel the trace of the hand in the crafted material, the whisper of the natural material in my hand. A human touch of love in the item made. Crafting hands are happy hands.

Happy spinning!


[Course in Sweden]

Det finns fortfarande platser kvar på min femdagarskurs Spinn ullens bästa garn på Sätergläntan i midsommarveckan.

Kom och dyk ner i ullen med mig!


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.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Socks

During the fall and winter I have been spinning a rya/mohair cabled sock yarn. It has taken a long time but I finally reached the bottom of the wool basket a few weeks ago. For Christmas I had promised Dan a pair of socks in a colour and style of his choice and I have now finished knitting them.

A blend of lamb's rya (dual coat) and adult mohair makes a strong foundation for a plastic free sock yarn.
A blend of lamb’s rya (dual coat) and adult mohair makes a strong foundation for a plastic free sock yarn.

Dye

The colour of Dan’s choice was blue, which was kind of vague. Lucky for him, since my dyeing experiments can be quite adventurous. First I mixed equal proportions of yellow, red and blue for a brown base. Then I added more blue and just a pinch of yellow to lean the blue a bit toward petrol. While I do love the colour it ended up a lot darker and murkier than I had planned. It is quite liberating, though, to just accept that I get the colour I get, enjoying the ride.

I dye with my little eye and it never turns out the way I had imagined. Still, I am happy for the colour I get.
I dye with my little eye and it never turns out the way I had imagined. Still, I am happy for the colour I get.

Design

The yarn has absolutely no elasticity, so I knew I needed to make the fabric elastic. A k2p2 rib was an easy choice. Dan wanted stripes, so he got stripes of the dyed and the natural white skeins. A simple short row toe (which I am ever amazed at and never seem to understand how it actually works) that I am particularly delighted by.

A sidetrack here: Provisional cast-on with a crochet chain. How is it that I always manage to fail utterly and completely with this method? I imagine just pulling the end of the crochet chain and magically unravel a perfect row of loops. Instead I end up having to untie it loop by loop. I had to check a YouTube tutorial for the second sock to get it right (which I actually did).

I had planned to knit the heel in the project, but changed my mind mid-sock and made sort of a semi- afterthought heel. The whole point of making this hopefully very strong and durable sock yarn was so that the socks would last, and without plastic. So, with an afterthought heel I will be able to knit a new heel when necessary.

Knitting and bingeing

My first test in spinning this yarn was a combed and worsted spun yarn that resulted in string. The carded and woolen spun version I tried next was so much better. Still, the yarn is quite dense and left a clear mark across my index finger as I knit the socks. The positive side of this, though, was that the density and strength of the yarn made out sort of a self regulating anti-strain button – I couldn’t binge knit these socks without strained shoulders and yarn cuts. So I took it in small portions, leaving space for taking a step back and planning the design. Slow is a superpower.

A basket full of yarn is like a bowl of candy!
A basket full of yarn is like a bowl of candy!

I watched several episodes of Gentleman Jack and Scott and Bailey for these socks. Suranne Jones with her several aspects of superheroness will be forever entangled in these socks. Like sort of a gentle sock body guard for Dan.

Numbers

The yarn is of light fingering weight and the gauge 25 stitches and 38 rows of stockinette stitch with 2.5 millimeter needles for a 10×10 cm square. This gauge leaves a tight material that I think is suitable for socks. For Dan’s socks I cast on 60 stitches to fit his feet with a comfortable negative ease. The yarn is quite heavy – four singles in the yarn (1819 meters per kilo) with quite some twist – and the finished socks weigh 161 grams in total (293 meters of yarn). The code word for these socks is chunky.

Toe-up

I knit the socks toe-up. I think it is the only way I have ever knit socks. My calves are quite generous above the ankles and I think it is easier to increase the circumference as I go than to decrease it. So I stayed in my comfort zone with Dan’s socks.

After the toes were finished I knit the socks parallell. Not on the same cable needles though, since I had too many balls of yarn to babysit. About 10 centimeters above the heel I changed to 3 millimeter needles to fit the calves. I used Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind-off for the leg opening.

Sock future

Knitting socks wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. However, this was with my own sock yarn and as a gift for my husband, so I really needed to get a good result. The socks fit Dan perfectly and look very nice. After the first wear he said they were a bit scratchy. I hope they will soften up after a few dates with his feet. Also, I’m looking forward to follow the durability of the yarn. I actually saved the leftover 2-plies for mending when that time comes.

At last, in early March, Dan got his Christmas socks.
At last, in early March, Dan got his Christmas socks.

There is yarn left for another two pairs of socks in a smaller size. I am also considering using the yarn for heels and toes only. Then I would have to spin another yarn for the foot and ankle, though.

Dan, my love, may your feet always be warm and happy. Merry Christmas!

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.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Embrace your mistakes

At the moment I’m teaching a digital course in wool knowledge to a spinning group in Sweden. At last week’s lecture I talked about analyzing the wool characteristics of a fleece. One student , E, said she was a beginner and didn’t know what can be expected by a characteristic. Her question gave me a lot to think about. I want to turn her concern around and highlight the superpowers of working in a new field. Today I want you to embrace your mistakes.

Sometimes it can be frustrating to be a beginner. For me just as for anyone else. The feeling of shortcomings in a group where you feel everybody else knows way more than you do can be discouraging. In moments like these I choose to flip the whole thing around and see the superpowers in being a beginner.

My very first skein of handspun yarn. Fine finull lamb's wool, hand carded on rusty cards and plied with some fawn alpaca since I didn't have enough fleece.
My very first skein of handspun yarn. Fine finull lamb’s wool, hand carded on rusty cards and plied with some fawn alpaca since I didn’t have enough fleece.

Embrace your mistakes

To understand something craft related I need to feel it. If there is a rule, like “don’t use a woolen spun yarn for warp” or “a two-end knitting yarn needs to be firm” I need to experience the consequences. When I have lived it and learned it I can make progress with that lesson in the back of my head and, most importantly, in the memory of my hands. I can also experiment with the boundaries of that rule. Can I use a woolen spun yarn for a very loose sett? What is too soft in a two-end knitting yarn?

Soft and thin yarn from very fine finull lamb's wool. Way too soft for two-end knitting.
Soft and thin yarn from very fine finull lamb’s wool, spun in 2012. Way too soft for two-end knitting.

Deriving the rules

One of the superpowers of being a beginner is that I don’t know the rules. Or, perhaps I have heard of the rules, but mostly in the terms of “Don’t do this, or that will happen”. I need to see and feel for myself to understand why it is wise to go one way instead of the other. I need to learn the mistakes through my hands. Sort of like deriving pythagoras’ theorem to understand why it works. When I don’t know the rules I am most likely to break them and learn something along the way.

Too soft two-end knitting yarn

When I held a spindle in my hand for the first time, on my first spinning lesson, I wanted to spin a Z-plied yarn for two-end knitting. There’s an optimistic attitude for ya! Two-end knitting didn’t happen with that first yarn, but a while later I did make a Z-plied yarn. From the softest finull lamb’s fleece (first beginner’s mistake). Way underspun (second beginner’s mistake). But I didn’t realize that until I had started my two-end knitting project. The yarn broke over and over, but I kept knitting. I did end up with a pair of mittens (fulled, I might add) that I used daily for many winters. When the thumbs needed mending I mended. I am still proud of the mittens and I embrace the mistakes I made.

The Swedish finewool sheep Pia-Lotta. The mittens are two-end knitted from yarn I spun from Pia-Lotta's fleece. Photo by Dan Waltin
The Swedish finewool sheep Pia-Lotta. The mittens are two-end knitted from yarn I spun from Pia-Lotta’s lamb’s fleece. Photo by Dan Waltin

Sock string

The opposite happened with my recent sock yarn. I wanted to make the yarn durable but ended up with string in my first try. But I learned from that, tried again, and succeeded with a softer, but still strong sock yarn. I don’t want to unlearn that lesson.

I am knitting a pair of socks for Dan in this yarn as we speak. They should be strong enough, but I don’t know yet. The yarn makes a clear dent across my left index finger as I knit. I hope they aren’t too scratchy to wear. This proves that my sock project still has lots of potential mistakes to embrace!

Freedom of creation

Sometimes I don’t even know rules exist. That way I can be free in my expression and create from my core. I can follow an idea straight from my heart all the way to a finished project. I will definitely meet challenges and make lots of mistakes. However, when it comes to my handspun I know how much time and love I have invested in it and I just have to make it work. I owe it to the sheep, the sheep farmer and the craft. Making something work despite a big blob of a challenge forces me to use more creativity to work around it. And that is definitely a superpower.

A few years ago I got a beautiful fleece with a lot of lanolin in the tips. I stored it for about a year and decided to start working with it. By then the grease had solidified and was very difficult to work through. Combing it was tough and left my shoulders and arms strained and the wool lumpy. After having experimented for a while I decided to tease the locks with a flicker before loading them to the comb (check out this post about the fleece and watch the two videos in it, showing the difference between combing with unflicked and flicked tips). The combing was easier on my back and resulted in less lumps and less waste.

A map of what I have learned

When I learn something the hard way I will remember what I have learned. My hands will remember. Especially when I look at what I have created. I say this all the time to my students and I mean it from the bottom of my heart: My mistakes are a map of what I have learned. I can look at a finished fabric and see the mistakes. At that instant I know what went wrong, why, what I did to fix it and how I can put that new knowledge to use in following projects.

Warp wisdom

One of my first weaving projects was the Blanka pillowcase. I spun the warp on a supported spindle from the cut ends of flicked locks and the weft on a floor supported Navajo style spindle. I wove the pillowcase as a tube, with two layers of warp on top of each other. The warp ends were very sticky and I had to separate them manually. I think over 30 warp threads broke, on the top layer as well as the bottom layer. I had spent so many hours spinning this yarn, from a prize winning fleece, and I just had to finish it. Eventually I did. I mended the weave by threading a needle with the warp yarn and sewing up and down in the space where the warp thread had broken. I am not afraid of broken warp threads anymore and I know how to fix them.

I must admit I have had to use this knowledge a few times after the disastrous pillow warp too, in the Frida Chanel bag and the stick wrap.

Another lesson in the Blanka pillowcase project was that spinning from individual staples creates lots of joins that are sensitive to abrasion and easily break. I avoid that in weaving nowadays and find other ways to spin the yarn without moving too far away from my creative needs. The pillow lives in our sofa, I wear the bag and I use the stick wrap when I weave. I see the mistakes every day. And I embrace them.

Exploring the boundaries

Some of the times that I have revisited a mistake it has been as an experiment to find out where the limits are. By exploring the boundaries I can find out how much I can bend the rules. If a warp yarn is sticky but still strong enough it will take a lot more time and disrupt the flow. But nothing bad will happen. If the warp threads are strong they will just cling, not break. The worst case scenario is that I will spend more time with the weaving. I don’t see that as a problem.

The joy of the heterogenous fleece

I work with handspun yarn in general and Swedish breeds in particular. More often than not they are unique and heterogenous. I need to compromise with the rules to make the textile work with the unique yarn that I spin. By learning – the hard way – how different yarns work in different kinds of weaves I can explore the boundaries.

A woolen spun Gute warp yarn in a loose sett.
A woolen spun Gute warp yarn in a loose sett.

During the fall I have spun a Gute warp yarn. The Gute wool is very prone to felting, very variegated in staple length, staple type and fiber type. Fibers are sticking out of the yarn and are just waiting for a neighbouring fiber to hold on to. But I still want to fulfill my goal of a light, fulled textile made of my handspun Gute wool. So despite all the rules and recommendations I made a woolen spun Gute warp yarn. The yarn has quite a high twist and the sett is very loose (so that I can full it). And it works. If it doesn’t, I will mend broken warp threads. I know how to do that now.

There will be more wool

Working with your mistakes instead of dreading them is a valuable way to learn more about how your fiber works. Without the mistakes I have made – from the very first blobby skein, through he recent sock string and to all future projects – I wouldn’t have been able to understand the wool I am working with.

The saddest mistakes I have made have been with fleeces that have grown too old and brittle and I have had to use them as mulching in the garden. But even then they come into use. And there will always be more wool. If you lose one unique fleece there will be another equally unique fleece just around the corner of the pasture.

So thank you, E, for your important question. Play, explore and learn. Embrace your mistakes. They will make out a beautiful map of what you have learned.

Happy spinning!


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. Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  8. 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.
  9. 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 bottom of the basket

The bottom of the basket.

A basket full of wool can feel like an endless supply of woolly goodness. After having prepared what may seem like three bags full of wool the content still looks untouched. But the supply is not endless. Sooner or later you will get to the bottom of the basket. I did this week.

By spending time with the wool my hands learn how the wool behaves and how it wants to be spun.
By spending time with the wool my hands learn how the wool behaves and how it wants to be spun.

I love digging my hands in a new spinning project. Fiber by fiber I get to know the fleece – fiber length, elasticity, crimp, colour, shine, fiber type, staple type. These characteristics are there for me to discover. If I only invest my time and focus in the fleece they will present themselves to me. My hands will investigate and learn how the fibers behave on their way from staples to yarn:

  • How do the fibers blend in the preparation?
  • What is the draft like? Is it smooth, fudgy, resistant, slippery, light?
  • How do my hands adapt to the length of the fibers?
  • How does the lanolin work with me in the draft?

Fiber by fiber, meter by meter, my hands are programmed with the knowledge they gain from handling the wool. Always alert, always ready to reevaluate.

The bottom of the basket

But sooner or later, believe it or not, I do reach the bottom of the basket. I look down and there is not a single staple left. The wool that my hands have become so used to, so familiar with, is no more. Just like when I finish a good book – the characters and context I have come to know and love are suddenly just gone. And I miss them. I miss the wool that have become a safe space. My hands and mind have been in this particular wool for so long and now that it is gone I truly miss it.

The bottom of the basket.
The bottom of the basket.

Time spent is knowledge gained

The wool has taught me so much. Even if I can’t always put words on what I have learned – although I try to – my hands will have adapted to the characteristics of the wool. Through all the times the fibers have gone through my hands they will know how to work with the wool. Crafting is the knowledge of the hands. The knowledge from spending hours and hours with the material, the idea, the design and the tools. That knowledge is priceless.

Through handling the fibers again and again my hands have learned how the wool behaves and wants to be spun. The result this time is 12 skeins of cable-plied rya/mohair sock yarn, 454 grams and 826 meters.
Through handling the fibers again and again my hands have learned how the wool behaves and wants to be spun. The result this time is 13 skeins of cable-plied rya/mohair sock yarn, 454 grams and 826 meters.

The knowledge in numbers

I just amused myself with calculating the time spent on my latest spin, that got me to the bottom of the basket. Each of the skeins of my rya/mohair cable-plied sock yarn took:

  • 40 minutes for teasing
  • 40 minutes for carding
  • 2.5 hours for spinning
  • 30 minutes for the first S-ply
  • 20 minutes for the second S-ply
  • 20 minutes for the Z cable ply.

That sums up to 5 hours per skein. I spun 13. That is 65 hours of fibers going through my hands. Plus another few hours of washing fleece, sorting, blending, washing the finished yarn and dyeing. Let’s say 75 hours (mohair takes a lot of time to wash). That is 75 hours of being in the fleece. 75 hours of the fleece telling me what it is and how it wants to be treated (for a further discussion on time and cost of handspun, have a look at this post about calculations).

The bottom of the basket is full of knowledge.
The bottom of the basket is full of knowledge.

When I get to the bottom of the basket I realize it is not empty. I have gained not only a pile of handspun skeins yarn, but also a basketful of knowledge and experience.

I will miss handling this wool for a while. But I will also smile and walk a little prouder. I have a basketful of sparkling new knowledge. Knowledge that I will be able to put into my forthcoming baskets.

Happy spinning!


Gotta go now, I have birthday cake to eat. Our eldest turns 18 today (the age of majority in Sweden) and I am suddenly the mother of an adult.


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.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.

Knit (spin) Sweden!

Knit (spin) Sweden is in your online bookstore now!

Sara Wolf has written the lovely book Knit (spin) Sweden and I’m a co-author. The book has been out for a while, but due to Brexit and lockdowns I got my hands on it only last week. Today I give you a sneak peak of the book.

The more I read this book the more I’m fascinated by Sara’s thoroughness and knowledge. She leaves no stone unturned in finding answers to her questions. And even when she has no answer she does her very best to present as complete a picture as she possibly can. I am so glad to know her and proud be part of this book.

Sara Wolf

Sara Wolf has had a long career in museums as a textile conservator. She has a great passion for textiles in general and knitting in particular. Through her many travels, Sara has developed a deep interest in different knitting techniques and traditions around the world. While she teaches knitting she is always open to learning new techniques herself. I may be partly responsible for dragging her into the deep, deep spinning rabbit hole.

Sara has a long experience as a textile conservator, knitter and knitting traveller.
Sara has a long experience as a textile conservator, knitter and knitting traveller.

Knitting history in Sweden

While knitting is a relatively new textile technique it is still old enough to have a blurry origin. There are pieces of the puzzle, but we don’t have the whole picture. As the structured and organized reasearcher Sara is, she provides us with a lot of pieces that lead us not to a clear picture bot a lot closer to one. One example is an Egyptian sock, dated between the 12th and 14th century. The sock is knit with intricate stranded colourwork and has complex toe and heal constructions. This leads Sara to the conviction that knitting started a lot earlier than the dating of the sock. And together with findings of coins from over 20 different nations in the island of Gotland in the 9th century it makes the idea of an early arrival of knitting in Sweden very appealing.

Swedish knitting designers

Sara has chosen to portray five Swedish knitting designers and their work – the two-end knitting patterns of master knitter Karin Kahnlund, Viking inspired cable design by Elsebeth Lavold, floral stranded colourwork by Katarina Segerbrand, everyday cable garments by Ivar Asplund and the work of experimenting designer Kristin Blom.

Swedish fleece and fibers

In the fall of 2018 Sara contacted me via my blog and asked if I could spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds for a book (this book) she was writing. I was a bit reluctant at first, but we really connected and soon I sent handspun yarns from Swedish sheep breeds across the pond to her. She in turn knit swatches of my yarns.

The section in the book about Swedish fleece and fibers is almost entirely focused on Swedish sheep breeds and the wool they produce. This is the part of the book where I come in. While Sara describes the Swedish sheep breeds, I write about my process and what I think of the wool I work with. She has then written about her experience with the yarn in knitting.

I finally have the book Knit (spin) Sweden in my hands!
I finally have the book Knit (spin) Sweden in my hands! My contribution to the book is handspun yarn and some of the sections in the chapter of Swedish fleece and fibers.

My handspun in Sara’s hands

Having someone else knit with my handspun yarns is a new experience to me. Sara has some really interesting points as a knitter that differ from mine as a spinner. Some of the yarns are too scratchy as a knitting yarn, which I was fully aware of when I sent them to her. No matter how much I want a yarn to work as a knitting yarn, Sara with her long experience and skill as a knitter can pinpoint what it is that makes a particular yarn less suitable for next to skin garments. This understanding confirms my decision a few years ago to learn how to weave to be able to use yarns from the whole spectrum of spinning possibilities– from the softest of soft next to skin knitting yarn to the coarsest rug weaving yarn.

Yarn shops, mills and fairs

In three of the chapters in Knit (spin) Sweden Sara goes through places to visit in Sweden – yarn shops, craft shops, museums, spinning mills, sheep farms, fiber artists, wool and knitting fairs and much more. She writes about how to get there, what to expect and where the real treasures are.

Three chapters of the book Knit (spin) Sweden are dedicated to yarn shops, spinning mills, sheep farms, fiber artists and fairs all over Sweden.
Three chapters of the book Knit (spin) Sweden are dedicated to yarn shops, spinning mills, sheep farms, fiber artists and fairs all over Sweden.

Sara has visited many of these places during her travels to Sweden and bought their yarns. Just as with my handspun yarns she has test knitted all the yarns and tells us how they feel when knitting and as a fabric and in what kind of technique and use she thinks they will be best suited.

Knitting patterns

Are you curious about trying some Swedish knitting patterns? In the book Sara offers 11 patterns, featuring traditional patterns from different regions in Sweden and from some of the featured designers in the book. Sara has also adapted some of the historically interesting findings into patterns. I have contributed with a pair of two-end knitted wrist-warmers using traditional crook-stitch patterns.

Glossary

In the back of the book Sara provides a Swedish to English and English to Swedish glossary of knitting and spinning terms.

Find Knit (spin) Sweden here

You can find Knit (spin) Sweden in several online bookstores in North America, Europe and Sweden. Check the publisher Cooperative press in the U.S., Amazon in the U.S., Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Book depository in the E.U., and Adlibris, Akademibokhandeln and Bokus in Sweden. On all the Amazon options you can look inside the book and read the first few pages, including Sara’s and my introductions.

Knit (spin) Sweden is in your online bookstore now!
Knit (spin) Sweden is in your online bookstore now!

Thank you Sara for all the hard work you have put in to this book and for inviting me on your journey.

Have you read the book? Let me know what you think!

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. Contributions from those who can afford it will also help keeping the content free for those who can’t. 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.

Dear Blanket

As a knitter of 35 years and a spinner of 8,5 years I have produced a lot of textiles. Some of them have wandered off to new adventures, some are used every now and then. Others are used and loved every day. One of these is a Shetland hap I spun and knit from Shetland fleece three years ago. This is a love letter to a dear blanket.

Dear Blanket,

we have been through a lot you and I. From a bundle of Shetland fleeces through washing, sorting, carding, spinning, plying and knitting to a finished Shetland hap. You had traveled a bit before you came to us. From the soft, green hills of Shetland to me in Stockholm. All four fleeces – white, eskit, shaela and mooskit – and pressed together. In plastic bags! I realize the humiliation of that, dear Blanket, but you did come to a good home in the end, didn’t you?

Once I had liberated you from that horrid plastic prison I gave you a lovely soak. You provided the lather from your soapy suint supply. Thank you for that! I did what I could to make you shine like the star you are. Softly spun with smooth long draw, rolag by rolag into a squishy 3-ply yarn and fashioned through an intricate but subtle lace pattern. The result: A perfectly lovely blanket. I think you rather enjoyed that! A traditional Shetland hap construction in all your Shetlandiness, but here with me in Sweden.

50 of the around 1000 grams of 3-ply handspun Shetland yarn that was made into a dear blanket.

We took the tram together to the craft leadership course, remember? Well, just the edges of you of course, way back when you were little and easy to handle. The tram ride took me 40 minutes. Very handy, I must say, since that is the time it took to knit two reports. As I worked my way in to the border and the middle you got increasingly harder to handle. The size of you! Towards the end of the knitting you covered most of my lap and half the sofa.

When you were finished

I made a hap stretcher for you, dear Blanket, to flaunt all your soft natural colours and lacey exquisiteness. It must have felt good getting de-wrinkled like that and straightened into your true shape, size and manner. Exposed to sun and daylight, just as you had been once on the hoof.

Nowadays

we hang out almost every day during the cold season. You just have that perfect nap size. Did you know that, dear Blanket? Your weight is light enough not to weigh down and heavy enough to feel safe and at ease under. I feel very privileged wrapped in you like a dumpling. You even have the wavy edges to match! Your natural colours and comforting wooly touch make me feel totally safe and at peace as your human-sized filling.

A person standing behind a stretched Shetland Hap
The Moder Dy hap. A dear blanket in a perfect nap size. Photo by Dan Waltin

In the evenings you are the perfect lap warmer for two people to snuggle under. Sometimes a teenager comes and worms themselves underneath your warmth with us. We don’t mind, quite the contrary. We are happy for whatever teenage snuggle we can get these days.

A dear blanket for two.
A dear blanket for two.

You have also joined me for Shavasana in my yoga practice. I bet you like that. No fidgeting, no fussing. Just a flat, relaxed, breathing body to cover.

Do you remember all the indoor huts you have been the floor, walls or roof of? With giggling children, soft toys and cushions making up a whole world for a precious moment. The giggling children are older now, sometimes more grumpy than giggly, and still use you for a hut. But they would never call it that these days.

The past few weeks

have been really cold, around -14°C at night. When I go to bed I steal you from the sofa, dear Blanket, and smuggle you up to the bedroom and drape you on top of my duvet. On occasions like these it’s like you undergo a transformation – from that everyday blanket in muted colours you suddenly stretch yourself into a majestic creation, like the train of an exquisite gown. Shining, suddenly. Beaming. Nights like that I imagine I sleep extra well underneath your wooly warmth.

The comfort of sleeping under a dear blanket in the cold winter.
The comfort of sleeping under a dear blanket in the cold winter.

Even though we enjoy your warmth and safety every day you don’t look a day older than when I unpinned you from the hap stretcher three years ago. I thank you for all the warmth and support you have provided us, dear Blanket. I hope you will continue to keep us safe and at peace.

A dear blanket to give warmth and comfort on cold winter days.
A dear blanket to give warmth and comfort on cold winter days.

All my love,

Josefin

P.S. I do wonder what will become of you when we are no longer with you. Who will treasure you? Who will know where you came from? Perhaps your heritage will be a secret to your future companion. Either way I’m sure you will warm someone else’s heart and become someone else’s dear blanket. And that’s the important thing.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Spinning a song

With the information I have about the wool I work with I'm spinning a song. The cues I get as I spin give me the opportunity to also sing my spin.

In previous posts I have compared spinning with dancing – how the hands need to work together to find what the wool needs to become its best yarn. In this post I reflect over the similarities between spinning and singing. Today I feel like spinning a song.

Lead and backup

The other night I was watching an episode of a Netflix series. A talented singer was performing a song on stage. She also had a gutarrist with her. As she came to the chorus he acted as her backup singer. They had a focused eye contact and it looked like he watched her every movement to be able to follow her lead and back her up with every tone, duration and intensity to help bringing harmony to the song.

He had singing skills, experience and the knowledge of where she had been and where she was now. Together with both of their awareness of the present he was able to figure out where she was going and, through that, where he would go. It was a very intense moment where they totally trusted each other’s skills, knowledge and presence in the moment. It reminded me of the relationship between the wool and the spinner.

My hands learn about the wool through handling it and listens mindfully for cues to respond to during spinning.

On stage

When I spin, the wool is my lead singer, I’m the backup and the yarn is the song. I guess, in this analogy, the tools I use are the band. I have spinning skills and experience in general. Each fleece has its own characteristics that I need to keep in mind during the process. Through handling the fleece in all the steps I get a deeper understanding of this particular wool:

  • Through working with the fleece I get a sense of the length of the fibers. I adapt the twist and distance between my hands for a smooth spin and a twist to match the length of the fibers.
  • The quality of the lanolin left in the wool gives the wool a certain viscosity and decides how the fibers move in the spinning. Is it fast or slow? Light or tough? Or is there little to no lanolin left and the yarn slippery and unpredictable? My hands get an understanding of the role the lanolin plays in the way the fibers joins in in the twist.
  • Do the fibers work together as one or are they fighting each other? With stubborn fibers my hands need to make more of an effort whilst an agreeing preparation will allow my hands to work lighter.
  • Is the preparation fresh and airy or a bit old and stubborn? This will decide how much my hands need to work for the fibers to join the twist.
Working with the fleece gives me important information about how the wool is built up and how it behaves.
Working with the fleece gives me important information about how the wool is built up and how it behaves.

These are all cues I use when I spin. My hands remember how the wool behaves and they can adapt to my understanding of it. That is, if you will, the general knowledge of the wool. The wool is the lead singer here and I’m the backup singer. I need to get to know my lead singer but also be open to listening in the moment to be able to follow.

Mindful listening

Through mindful listening during spinning I get cues that tell me what is going on in this very moment. Is there a lump in the preparation that I need to take account for? Are there shorter or longer fibers in a section where I need to change the distance between my hands? I can close my eyes and try to get a sense of the consistency in the yarn. When I draft, my hands will listen for the point of twist engagement, where the yarn is open for adjustments in twist and thickness. My hands remember the quality of the yarn. If I listen mindfully I can follow the wool’s lead and contribute to making the yarn shine.

Focusing on how the fiber behaves gives med cues to respond to when I spin.
Focusing on how the fiber behaves gives med cues to respond to when I spin.

Spinning a song

The wool I’m working with now is a rya/mohair blend for a sock yarn. The mohair is quite dense and the fibers like to stick together. The rya is more airy, so in this combination there are parts that are airy and parts that are denser. I try to tease and card the blend to the best of my ability, but there are still critical spots here and there when I spin. Through the preparation of the wool my hands have gained a basic understanding of how the blend works. It’s not the walk in the park kind of wool, but I am getting to know how it sings. With this knowledge I have a better starting point when I spin. I listen for cues that have become clear to me during processing and I have a pre-understanding of what may turn up.

My hands listen carefully to the information they can get from the fibers in the yarn I'm spinning.
My hands listen carefully to the information they can get from the fibers in the yarn I’m spinning.

Just the other week I realized the difference between freshly carded rolags and rolags that were a week old. The older rolags were stubborn and fighted me while the fresh ones were a lot more cooperative. A freshly made rolag made spinning my song so much easier.

Singing a spin

In this sock yarn song the notes are difficult and the lead singer way ahead of my game. But I do my best to listen mindfully and learn as much as I can from my lead singer. I try hard to learn where my wool has been, where it is in this moment and where I can expect it to be further on and be ready for new cues. By working with what I know about the wool I’m spinning a song. With the knowledge I gain from listening mindfully to the wool while I spin I am also able to think one step ahead and sing my spin.

My hands learn about the wool through handling it and listens mindfully for cues to respond to during spinning.
With the information I have about the wool I work with, I’m spinning a song. The cues I get as I spin give me the opportunity to also sing my spin.

Happy spinning!

Knit (spin) Sweden book is out!

The book Knit (spin) Sweden, written by Sara Wolf with me as a co-author, is out! Some of you have bought it already. I hope you enjoy it! The book is available in online stores. The link is to Amazon U.S. Check it out to read about the book and also look inside it. I’m sure you can find it in other web shops in North America too. I haven’t read it yet, because I haven’t got the book. The European printer is in the U.K. and the books are sadly stuck there in a Brexit innuendo and covid shut down.

Sara has written a history of knitting in Sweden and Swedish knitting traditions. There are also knitting patterns in the book. She visits yarn shops and sheep farms, museums and spinning mills in different parts of Sweden. My contribution to the book is the (spin) part. I have spun yarn from many of the Swedish sheep breeds and sent them to Sara in the U.S. for her to knit swatches with. I have written about my experience with the wool as well as preparing and spinning it. Sara has in turn written about her experience knitting with my yarns.

You can find me in several social media:

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  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
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  • 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.