A sore thumb

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

A sore thumb

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

Writer’s block

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

Sans a lot

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

Morning journaling is a treasured moment for me.

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

Enter: Idea (with tart tone)

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

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

Changing hands for ergonomics

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

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

Hand habits

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

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

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

A rocky boat

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

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

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

Frustration

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

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

Awakening

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

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

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

Choosing the challenge

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

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

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

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

The gift of knowledge

In earlier posts I have written a lot about the knowledge in the hands, muscle memory, the power of slowness and learning through experience. Today I explore spinning and the learning process in spinning in a spiritual perspective. While reflecting over the gift of knowledge I dig into the why of spinning.

During the autumn I have been reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s beautiful books Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering moss. She is a professor of botany and blends her scientific knowledge seamlessly with her indigenous heritage in the Potawatomi Nation. I have had to stop reading several time to reflect over the spiritual message of the book and how I can find a deeper spiritual meaning in my spinning.

Gathering moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer is my morning read at the moment.
Gathering moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer is my morning read at the moment.

The gift of knowledge

I read and journal early in the morning in blissful solitude, when body and mind are sprouting fresh out from the stagnant night. This is my time and space dedicated to reflection and becoming a better person in the world.

Robin Wall Kimmerer writes:

“In traditional indigenous communities, learning takes a form very different from that of the American public education system. Children learn by watching, by listening and by experience. They are expected to learn from all members of the community, human and non-human. To ask a direct question is often considered rude. Knowledge cannot be taken; it must instead be given. Knowledge is bestowed by a teacher only when the student is ready to receive it. Much learning takes place by patient observation, discerning pattern and its meaning by experience. It is understood that there are many versions of truth, and that each reality may be true for each teller. It’s important to understand the perspective of each source of knowledge.”

Gathering moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer, p. 82

I have been thinking about this quote a lot this morning and how I can apply the gift of knowledge – knowledge as a gift to be given when I’m ready to receive it – to spinning. Every time I spin I do my best to listen to the wool and allow it to be my teacher. As I teach I encourage my students to listen patiently to the wool. But the notion of knowledge being given when I as a student am ready gives even more depth to this process. The notion of knowledge as a gift is like a gift in itself, wrapped in a soft pink silk ribbon.

A conversation with the wool

As I work my way through the wool and through the stages of wool processing there is a conversation going on. My hands explore and get feedback from the wool. Reflecting over the quote above I realize that I don’t ask the direct questions, because I know the answer won’t help me. I need to be ready to receive the the answer. The time it takes to get ready may include investigation, exploration, experimentation and patient listening.

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

I learn by experience over and over again as the wool goes through my hands and my mind. The wool replies in my hands with clues of elasticity, give, length, crimp, friction. Small clues that build up to an understanding of the wool when I am ready to receive it. If I’m not ready to receive the understanding I will make mistakes. Which, ironically, do help me understand, but in a more brutal way.

The clues along the road will eventually help me understand the wool and what I need to do. I also believe that the time it takes to figure out what the clues tell me will give me the knowledge. It may also include silently being with the wool, asking for nothing in return. The time I spend with the wool, the time I give the wool, will allow me to reflect and understand what it is I experience.

Example: Icelandic Lopi style yarn

So how do I get ready to receive the knowledge by my teacher, the wool? To illustrate my thoughts on this I will use my current spinning project as an example. I’m spinning Icelandic wool in the grease from the lock and my example regards the processing of the wool before spinning.

  • When I first met this fleece I wanted to tease the wool with my hands only. But since the tips were a bit stiffened by the lanolin I abandoned that idea. The fibers in the tip didn’t separate enough for a comfortable spin.
  • Next I tried teasing with a flicker. Tip end and cut end. This was a better approach. The teased staples were easier to work with and I could spin a more even yarn.
  • The flicked staples were still worked one by one, though. I wanted to find a way to bundle them together and spin as a mass. From previous experience I knew that flicked locks don’t always separate as evenly as a carded or combed preparation and tend to get dense. I tried hand teasing the staples sideways after the flicking and could arrange the flicked and hand teased staples better as a bundle. It was also more open than separate flicked staples. The sideways hand teasing reduced some of the denseness. It was still a little awkward, though. The drafting got interrupted by tangles and disarrayed and escaping fibers.
  • I worked this way for one or two skeins. Then, out of no special reason at all, I spread each staple in its sideway hand teased state, like an accordion. I layered the accordioned teasings (wow, that’s a new word invention, but I hope you get what I’m after) on top of each other, cut end on top of cut end, tip end on top of tip end. When I had layered an appropriate amount of teasings I rolled the whole accordion pile into a loose burrito bundle and spun from the corner of the cut ends. This works very well. I get an evenly spun yarn that drafts easily over the whole bundle.

The accordion burrito preparation is how I work at the moment. I have spun two or three skeins this way and it is working out smoothly. But who knows, I may find yet another answer as I investigate and am ready to receive new knowledge.

If and when that happens I will work with the new knowledge and develop my technique accordingly. Step by step I get ready to receive new knowledge. The way I prepare this wool now at this moment was not available to me when I started. I wasn’t ready to receive and understand it.

Quick fix or receiving the knowledge?

I have written quite an extensive post so far. Throughout the post I have shared clues in the wool through my experience of it. With time, exploration, experimentation, listening and reflecting I have gained, earned, become ready to receive knowledge about how the wool behaves. From that knowledge I have spun a yarn in a certain way, with certain tools and techniques. I could go straight to this paragraph and spin the yarn from a “recipe” created from the bullet list above. But the understanding would be lost. I wouldn’t be ready to receive the knowledge without the time spent observing and experiencing the wool. As I read the bullet list my hands remember how each step felt and the time it took to take the next. Time is my friend here, slow is a superpower. Connecting this approach to a spiritual level makes my heart tingle.

Perspectives

I come back to the same important factors in understanding the wool I work with – the muscle memory, learning by experience, learning by mistakes and the time I spend with the wool. These are all part of my understanding of the wool. In a way similar to how Robin Wall Kimmerer adds the best parts of western science to her indigenous knowledge to understand plants around her I do my best to understand spinning through both physical, experiential, temporal and spiritual perspectives. They may all lead to the same result, the perspectives are just different.

Through different perspectives I get to know the wool. A spiritual perspective adds a new dimension to my understanding of the wool and the process.
Through different perspectives I get to know the wool. A spiritual perspective adds a new dimension to my understanding of the wool and the process.

I may understand these perspectives on different levels and in different contexts. The combination of them can give me a greater depth of spinning. I find a spiritual perspective to be an important piece that adds new dimensions to my perception of the wool. I can rest in the notion that by humbly and respectfully investigating, listening, exploring and experimenting with the wool I will understand more as I am ready to receive the gift of knowledge.

Resources

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Gunvor’s Sirwal pants

And they are done. My largest spindle spun project so far, the Sirwal snow shoveling pants that used to be common in the Moroccan High Atlas Mountains. I call them Gunvor’s Sirwal pants from the sheep that gave me the wool. Since my 16-year-old has dibs on snow shoveling for pocket money I may use the pants for outdoor yoga and for walking down to the lake for my daily bath.

A while ago I bought Irene Waggener’s beautiful book Keepers of the sheep and reviewed it on the blog. One of the most striking patterns was the Sirwal pants, a pair of black and white striped pants that the shepherds used to knit while herding the sheep.

A patternless pattern

In the book Irene describes her first meeting with the pants in a museum, how she learned to knit them from her host Muah n’Aït Tabatoot’s demonstration. Irene has in turn written down the oral description and demonstration for the book. As all of the projects in the book the pattern is based on working with what you have in the form of wool, yarn, needles and body size rather than a detailed knitting instruction. I really liked the idea and think it would be a good challenge for me.

The challenge of keeping it simple

In the book Irene describes how Muah’s wife Nejma spun and plied the yarn on a floor supported spindle, wound it into a ball and handed it straight over to Muah for knitting. I wanted to make my own pair of Sirwal pants as close to the original as possible. So, a spindle spun yarn. I didn’t have a floor supported spindle of the kind Nejma used, but I do have Navajo style floor supported spindles so I used one of them. I also decided not to soak the yarn and set the twist after plying, to stay as close to the High Atlas way as I could.

“So, the yarn is not soaked and the twist has not been set?” you may say. That’s right. “But soaking the yarn will allow it to bloom into its final shape! And setting the twist will even out the twist over the length of the yarn!” you may continue. That is true. This will probably not happen with my pants. Something else probably will, though. I don’t know what, but if and when it does, all is as it should be. Instead of the finished yarn I got the loveliest smell during knitting and the softest hands. That counts for something too.

Gunvor the Gestrike sheep

Gunvor the Gestrike ewe who was my longitudinal fleece study sheep
Gunvor the Gestrike ewe who was my longitudinal fleece study sheep.

I used two fleeces of Gestrike wool, the first and second shearing of the Gestrike ewe Gunvor. She was the subject of my longitudinal study I wrote about in May 2021. She was a beautiful white sheep with large black spots, perfect for the striped Sirwal pants.

Gestrike wool has both long and strong outercoat fibers, soft and airy undercoat and some kemp. This results in a strong and warm yarn, perfect for my Sirwal pants.

A life through stripes

The fleece of Gestrike sheep can lighten with age and Gunvor’s fleece turned out to have that particular characteristic. I took advantage of this feature and used the blackest black from the first shearing at the bottom of the legs and continuted with the lighter shades as I worked my way up the legs. I like how you can see Gunvor’s life through the stripes.

The quality of the wool was different between the shearings too. The first shearing was shinier and a bit finer while the second shearing was a bit shorter and airier. I’m not sure it’s visible in the pants, though. The second shearing was a lot higher in lanolin. As I calculated the yield from the two fleeces I was amazed by the difference. From the raw fleece I got a yarn yield of 59 per cent from the first shearing and 38 per cent from the second. The amount of lanolin should be an important clue to this difference. Perhaps the second shearing also contained more short fibers and/or kemp than the second, that stayed in the combs when I teased the wool.

You can read more about shearing and lanolin content through the seasons in the post Shearing Day.

Bulky

Another challenge was the yarn. The tradition calls for a super bulky yarn, which is far from my light fingering weight default thickness. But a challenge is a challenge and I took it by the horns. I managed to spin the bulkiest singles I have ever spun. Add plying to that and I got myself a super bulky woolen spun yarn from hand carded rolags.

At first I tried to card the wool without teasing the wool first, again in an effort to stay as close to the High Atlas way as possible. But the kemp in the wool made the yarn very scratchy. By teasing the wool with combs I got rid of a lot of the kemp and I decided to keep the teasing.

When the pants were finished I had used 26 balls of yarn. 1200 grams, 717 meters from the two fleeces, between 500 and 700 meters per kilo with an average grist of 590 meters per kilo. You can read more about how I spun this yarn in my blog post bulky.

If you are a patron (or become one) you may get access to a Patreon postcard video I made in November, where I demonstrate how I spin the super bulky yarn.

Knitting

I started knitting as soon as I had the first ball of handspun yarn in my hand. This is how I continued with the whole project – spin a ball and knit it. A yarn of this weight doesn’t last very long, though. At the bottom of the legs one skein lasted about one stripe and at the hips around eight rounds.

Spin a ball, knit a stripe, hoping the two fleeces would be enough for the whole project.

Knitting the Gunvor Sirwal pants was quite strenuous. The bulky yarn and the large needles (5.5 mm) require some work. Add to that the tight twist and the tight gauge and, as I joined the legs in the crotch, quite some weight in my lap to manage. The finished pants weigh around one kilo.

Despite the heavy knitting it was lovely to work with the yarn. I love the roundedness of the yarn and the strong character it has. It takes its place in the world and doesn’t apologize for its existence. I got all giggly by the sheepy smell from the unwashedness of the pants in progress. As I knit I experienced Gunvor’s life, from the blackest of the black lamb locks at the shins to the more mature depth in the lead grey in hip height.

Outdoor yoga and cold baths

If you have been following me for a while you may know that I take baths in the lake every day and that I sometimes practice yoga outdoors. Gunvor’s Sirwal pants are perfect for both outdoor yoga and walking down to the lake on the coldest days.

A walk to the bath

are warm, reasonably windproof, and easy to put on after a cold bath, which is important since my fingers are stiff from the cold and I need to get warm fast. Yesterday afternoon I went down to the lake with an axe and cleaned up the edges of the hole in the ice. We’re five ladies in the cold bath group and they have all been cheering me on during the making of the pants.

An outdoor yoga studio

Practicing yoga outdoors is not a problem as long as you have clothing that suits the weather. Down to -2°C is ok with one or two layers of wool tights or sweat pants. I can even practice with bare feet on my cork mat at this temperature. With lower temperatures staying warm easily gets too chunky which makes it difficult to do the postures comfortably.

Gunvor’s Sirwal pants are perfect, though, even for temperatures below -2°C. I took the pictures above at -6°C and it wasn’t too cold. With the suspenders they stay up without getting too tight around the waist.

I practice yoga asana every day, and sometimes outdoors on our terrace. I just love having all the fresh air to myself. As I usually do my outdoor yoga at around 8 p.m. it’s dark, as dark it gets in a city. I get to look up at the sky and the waving pine branches above. It gives the practice an extra dimension of space that I don’t want to be without.

Gunvor’s Sirwal superhero pants, ready for your next wooly adventure.

Some people say the pants look a bit like Obelix’s blue and white striped pants, some say they look like Findus the cat’s green striped suspender pants. They remind me of swimsuits from over a century ago, which is quite suitable since I wear them in a bathing context. But most of all they make me think of superhero pants with their bold stripes and dazzling lightning bolts up the sides. Don’t we all wish to be just a little superhero-y every now and then?

Thank you Irene for making the pattern accessible and Muah for teaching Irene. Thank you Gunvor for the loveliest wool. I have learned a lot from this project.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

2021 wrapped up

Another year has passed, filled with spinning memories, like sweets in a bowl. Today I share my favourite wool moments from this year. This is 2021 wrapped up.

As I have looked through my posts in preparation for this wrapping up of the year I have tried to cluster the posts. I have found a few different perspectives that I can sort the posts into. So if you are in a certain mood you can skip to that particular area below.

Meditate

If you are in an artistic mood perhaps you are more inclined to read posts that are written in a more reflective and poetic style.

First comes a carefully worded ode to a small ziplock bag of 55 grams of wool. Actually an exercise from Ursula K Le Guin’s brilliant book on writing, Steering the craft. Do read the piece aloud to discover the rhythm in some of the passages.

In Dear Blanket I address one of the handspun knitted items that I use the most, a Shetland hap Dan and I snuggle under in front of snacks and Netflix every evening. In the same spirit I reflect on a Little ball of yarn.

I also created a more hands-on meditation in the video I call A spinning meditation, recorded in the northernmost part of Swedish Lappland, in the Swedish part of Sápmi. I invite you to spin along with me and feel your way through the spinning.

Reflect

Perhaps you are feeling more like reflecting over wool, spinning and the process you might be leaning more towards in-depth reflections. Here are some suggestions:

In The wool is my teacher I look at the wool in my hands as my most important teacher. If I listen close enough the wool will tell me what it’s all about. When the wool go through my hands time and again in the process from fleece to textile they gather knowledge. In The memory in the hands I reflect over this. And if I for some reason don’t listen to the wool or my experience I will make mistakes. I will also learn from them. In Embrace your mistakes I share some of the mistakes I have embraced over the years.

Through all that happens in the outer and inner world, wool is always there, anchoring me in the moment, opening the door to creativity. I remind myself of this in The comfort of wool. I think this is true for many spinners. In Course exchange I write about teaching new spinners and wishing they get as much out of wool and spinning

Explore

Sometimes I just want to explore a new fleece or a technique, with curiosity and an open mind. Judging from the posts in this section I have done that a lot this year. Try these:

In A coloured fleece I dive deep into the different shades of brown in a variegated brown Värmland fleece. I spin a super bulky Gestrike yarn on a floor supported spindle in Bulky. In Changing hands I talk about why I always teach my spindle spinning students to learn how to spin with both hands as spindle hands.

A couple of years ago I started a breed study series of the wool of Swedish sheep breeds from a spinner’s perspective. Most of these breed studies have been both a blog post and a live webinar. This year I had time for two breed studies – Gestrike wool and Åsen wool. If you registered for the webinars back then you still have access to the replays. During the year I have also had time to explore fleeces from these breeds further, in Nalbinding Åsen mittens and a Gestrike wool Longitudinal study.

Finally, in Break the rules I challenge the rules I have learned about spinning and do whatever I want. And it works!

Experiment

Sometimes I throw myself out into the wild and experiment with something that has proven to be a challenge or a technique that I don’t usually work with. I experiment with different solutions and learn a lot from the experiment. Perhaps you will be inspired to experiment too. Here are some of my recent concoctions:

Pick a fleece full of Vegetable matter and experiment with different ways to remove as much of the vegetable matter as possible. Imagine that same fleece, a rough fleece with kemp. Imagine smooth recycled sari silk. Put them together and read about it in Opposites attract.

I spin a newly shorn Icelandic lamb’s fleece from Iceland In the grease and find joy in the joy that the raw feeling and smell of fresh lanolin gives me. In Fulling singles I am determined to knit with singles yarns and full them to make sure the fabric doesn’t twist and turn.

Experience

In this last section I have gathered posts that have required or given me experience. Perhaps you find inspiration by reading these:

On a lovely Shearing day in October I got to be part of the helper team when Claudia’s Gestrike sheep were shorn by a professional shearer. And I got to bring the fleece of Elsa home on the bus. In Fleece happens I describe my process from when a fleece happens to come to me (like Elsa’s) to when I store it, via note taking, sorting, washing, drying, picking and more. A way to categorize wool in Sweden is by wool type. I walk you through the different wool (or staple) types and how they work. Wool combs describes what properties I think are important when I look at wool combs.

Påsöm embroidery is not about spinning at all, but still textile techniques. This embroidery technique and pattern is unique to the small village of Dala-Floda in County Dalarna in Sweden. Mending apparatus also has nothing to do with spinning, but is important for if and when your garments tear.

Books! Finally Sara Wolf’s book was released and I am a co-author. Read about Knit (spin) Sweden! and enjoy. The book is sold out and it will hopefully be reprinted. In a Book review I talk about Irene Waggener’s book Keepers of the sheep. Do read it!

Finally, in A pattern process I walk you through the agony and hair tearing as I go through the process of designing and construct a knitting pattern for publishing. You will see the root of this agony soon!

Do you have a favourite?

Happy new spinning year!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Spinning championships 2021

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

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

Championship format

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

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

Värmland wool

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

Colour separation

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

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

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

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

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

Consecutive spinning

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

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

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

First round

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

Second round

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

Third round

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

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

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

Final touch

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

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

Flax

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

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

Rehackling, brushing and dressing

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

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

Dressing the distaff

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

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

Spinning and skeining

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

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

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

Scouring

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

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

My finished contribution to the 2021 Swedish spinning championships.

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

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Close

Last week I elaborated on the memory in the hands and how staying close to the wool with as few and simple tools as possible allows me to understand the wool better. In this post I stay with this topic, albeit in a more poetic style. Later today I will teach suspended spindle spinning two complete beginners. I hope they too will find the poetry in spinning as they learn.

A newly shorn Icelandic lamb’s fleece from Uppspuni mini mill in Iceland.
Just released from Icelandic mountains, a lamb is shorn
From the tips that grew in the womb
to the airy base,
filled with nutrients
from the summer's pasture
Swiftly relieved from its first coating
on a crisp autumn day,
a singular fleece gently chosen for me.
As it comes to me
I find it as it was,
still newly shorn,
untouched
Staples still holding on
where once there was a sheep.

Side by side the cut ends look back at me,
layered, like pages of an open book,
unfolded, receptive,
inviting me to its stories.
In the other end streaming locks,
holding on like pony tails
skipping home from a day at the beach.
Cone shaped staples. Soft, strong, inviting.
Outercoat long and slender,
undercoat billowing, endless
Sharp waves and unruly foam of a streaming river
Soft ice cream with chocolate ripples
Ski tracks atop untouched snow.

All over a glistening, vivid layer
of lanolin
smelling faintly of sheep,
lubricating the draft,
softening my hands
on their journey through
the wool.
With my hands in the fleece I listen to my best teacher – the wool.
Let me come close, explore,
let me learn
and discover the soul of this mass,
let me honour the sheep
that gave me its treasure.

By shortening the lever
between hands and wool
I stay close
To the sheep
To the wool
To the spinning.

The fibers through my hands
repeatedly
Feeling, meeting the fibers
again and for the first time
in all the steps
from staple
to yarn.
Every time in a new shape,
a new context
a new phase.
I tease the wool with my hands and get additional information about how it behaves.
I tease the fibers apart with my fingers
Sideways, strand by strand
spreading the once bundled staple
into a glistening single layer web
my hands astonished,
by the wool,
in the wool
learning through every move.

How do they hold on?
How do they know
when to hold on, slide or let go?
Spinning the yarn straight off the hand teased staple keeps me close to the wool.
I hold the teased wooliness
gently, attentive
Adding twist,
listening, feeling the draft
Just like that,
teased
raw
close.

My two hands don't touch,
yet the living twist connects them,
passes the information
back and forth
like a tin can phone
connecting sound waves
in cordial conversation
between two friends
sharing the same thought.
My heart sings
through learning,
by leaning in,
listening.
The wool is my teacher,
I treasure her wisdom.

I stay close to the wool,
feel the connection to the sheep
through my hands
and what they learn
by listening to the wool,
and finding its soul.

Resources

Here are some other blog posts written in a more poetic style:

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

A spinning meditation

I have a new video for you today! I recorded it this summer in Abisko national park, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. A magical place, perfect for a spinning meditation.

Abisko is such a beautiful spot in the world. I never get tired of it. The stillness, the vast landscape and the vegetation in the mountain birch forests and above the tree line are breathtakingly beautiful. I have had some blurry plans for a spinning meditation for a couple of years now, and just a few weeks before we boarded the train to Abisko I knew that was the place where I would shoot the spinning meditation video.

About the spinning meditation

The spinning meditation is a 12 minute spin-along meditation. I use a suspended spindle in the video, but feel free to use any spinning tool you like. In the video I sit, stand and walk. If there is a section you want to stay longer in you can pause the video. Or, if you want to skip a section, just jump to the next. With a little imagination you can adapt the meditation to fit your personal needs. The video is available in spoken English and spoken Swedish. Both versions have the option for subtitles in English and Swedish.

So here it is, or rather, here they are, A spinning meditation in English and Swedish.

A spinning meditation in spoken English with English and Swedish subtitles.
En spinnmeditation in spoken Swedish with English and Swedish subtitles.

An idea is born

When I have taught five day spinning courses at Sätergläntan craft education center I have offered a spinning meditation as the very last thing we do together before everyone returns home. I have no training in how to put together a meditation and I basically made things up as I went along. But all the students seem to have enjoyed it. Towards the end of the meditation I have invited the students to spin with their eyes closed and feel their way in the spinning. They have all managed to spin with a lot more ease with their eyes closed than they had imagined.

Spinning with eyes closed isn't as hard as you may think. Focus on the sensation of the wool in your hands rather than the visual input and you are on your way.
Spinning with eyes closed isn’t as hard as you may think. Focus on the sensation of the wool in your hands rather than the visual input and you are on your way.

Returning students have requested the spinning meditation after the first year I tried it and I have offered it on other courses where the students have had a few days to get to know each other and feel safe enough to take part in a group meditation. After the meditation they have shared their experiences, especially regarding the section where I invite them to close their eyes. I have learned so much from their stories.

Location scouting

So, a spinning meditation video started to take up space in my head. When we finally got to Abisko after a 17 hour train ride I took several location scouting walks around the mountain birch forest where the Abiskojåkka stream ends in Lake Torneträsk. I found a cliff overlooking the stream, a higher cliff overlooking the whole stream delta and the lake, and a pebble beach with Lapporten, the Lapponian gate, majestically resting on the other shore.

These are places I returned to several times, not only for the sake of the video but also for the incredible beauty, serenity and vast landscape. Most of the photos in this blog post are actually print screens from the video. As usual I didn’t think about taking photos too. But below is a real photo and a sweet memory from one of the hikes we did.

A late glacier buttercup (isranunkel) just below the peak of mount Slåttatjåkka, overlooking the Gohpasvággi canyon and Lake Torneträsk.
A late glacier buttercup (isranunkel) just below the peak of mount Slåttatjåkka, overlooking the Gohpasvággi canyon and Lake Torneträsk.

The hike, from the top of the Mount Njulla chair lift station between the peaks and down along the Kårsavagge canyon turned out to be 8 hours long. I was quite exhausted after having walked downhill for so long, but very happy for the experience.

Weather issues I

When I had decided on my video locations I gathered wool, tools and tripod and went out to shoot the video. In the rain as it turned out. I am a very stubborn person and actually went through with the whole wool preparation part of the video in the rain, wind blowing my hat off my head. After a while, when my hands were fuzzy of all the fibers sticking to the palms of my wet hands I realized that I needed to come to my senses and reshoot the video another day.

Weather issues II

That another day was the last day of our visit, so I needed to shoot the video no matter what. The what of the situation was the temperature this time. It was around 10°C/50°F, which isn’t optimal for spinning wool with lanolin left in it.

I was on a mission, though, and realized that I needed to solve my problem since the weather wouldn’t do it for me. I filled a metal water bottle with boiling water, wrapped the wool around the bottle and a woven seat pad around the wool to keep it as warm as possible. And it worked! I managed to shoot the video at my three chosen locations with only minor… let’s say… interventions.

Visitors

As I sat at the very steep cliff over the roaring stream, combing away, I heard rustling noises in the mountain birch forest. Suddenly, literally out of nowhere, and with no owner to be found, two spitz-like dogs (jämthund/Swedish elkhound?) came towards me. I’m not the biggest dog fan, especially when I’m at steep cliffs over roaring streams with no one else in sight. I had nothing else to do than to stay calm and comb my little heart out. The intruders sniffed at me and my wool and lurked away behind me.

Stray and rude dogs at the set.

After a while they came back, still without owner. Perhaps I should add that in all Sweden dogs are bound to be on a leash or under strict supervision from March to August and on a leash at all times all year round in a national park. I still have no idea where they came from and to whom they belonged.

The dogs actually peed and pooped behind me. On camera! That’s just rude, don’t you think? I could show you clips of their crimes, but I won’t sink to their level.

A spinning meditation

When I shot the video I had no idea how to put together the actual meditation. I just made sure I had shots of all the steps of the spinning process and some pretty angles. During September I have explored the construction of the meditation and the narration. I wanted it to be accessible to as many spinners as possible, both beginners and experienced and with different preferences regarding spinning tools. And I wanted to offer the beauty of spinning with closed eyes. It is quite a special experience. Beauty, inspiration and exploration have been key words as I have crafted the narration of the meditation. I hope you find these aspects if you take part of the meditation.

Oh, and did I bathe in the lake? Of course I did. Every day in either the stream (6°C/43°F) or the lake (8°C/46°F). Also quite meditative.

I hope you enjoy the spinning meditation. Let me know if you meditated along with me in the video and how you experienced it. I also hope you can do the meditation outdoors, possibly with a bit higher temperatures than the 10°C/50°F I shot the video in.

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

A pattern process

Join me in a pattern process – an adventurous and emotional journey from the sparkling idea for a new design through all the bumps and challenges in the process to a finished pattern and beyond.

1 Sparkling

You know when a baby idea gently but convincingly softly whispers in your mind: Feed me. Feeed me! The whisper gets louder, more vivid, and more impossible to reject. The idea is there to stay, to poke you in the eye until you do feed it.

A baby idea comes knocking on my door, demanding my attention.
A baby idea comes knocking on my door, demanding my attention.

This happened to me a couple of years ago. Well, several times, but this post is about a particular baby idea. I saw something that ignited the baby idea. Something I had seen before, but obviously and flatly ignored.

2 Inspiring

Once I have adopted the baby idea inspiration is everywhere. What about this structure, shape, can we please include these features, pretty please? And tassels, let’s have tassels! Says the baby idea, a bit more confident and, frankly, bossy now.

The ideas bounce around in my head 24/7 like a pinball game on the border between inspirational and overwhelming. When I come to my senses I manage to place a filter of structure and reason over the pinball ideas and sort out my favourites to knead some more.

3 Creating

So, now I have the basic building blocks of my pattern idea. In this phase I get to play with details, whole, structure and technique until I come closer to a yarn and garment design that are feasible as a knitting project. I really enjoy this part of the pattern process since it is unpretentious. It doesn’t demand or criticize. It simply allows me to refine and boil down my ideas into something unique, yet manageable.

I get to play with details, whole, techniques and structure.
I get to play with details, whole, techniques and structure.

This is the pure and innocent phases at which I have no idea of the agonizing, doubting and sweating phases that are to come.

4 Spinning

The pattern process for projects with handspun yarn is a bit different than projects using commercial yarn. First of all, I need to create the yarn I need for my project, which makes the process a bit longer and more adventurous. Second of all, I can’t expect a group of test knitters to go through a whole wool process to spin for and finally knit a garment I have chosen for them. And finding and testing a commercial yarn that looks and works kind of like my handspun just to have a commercial yarn reference doesn’t serve me.

I still want to design, though, so I have decided to set my own rules for designing for handspun. Without commercial yarn and without test knitters.

The final yarn design for a knitting pattern that was published a year ago, the Selma Margau sweater.
The final yarn design for a knitting pattern that was published a year ago, the Selma Margau sweater.

I spin to show the most prominent characteristics of the fiber. At the same time, I have a project idea that lies in the other end of the pattern process journey. For the project to happen I need to create a yarn that does make the fiber justice and that works in the project.

5 Swatching

In the swatching phase of my pattern process I do my best to match the yarn with the needles and the fabric structure. With the fiber as my most important foundation I need to find a way to create a yarn that mirrors the characteristics of the fiber while at the same time working with the structure I have in mind for the fabric.

Don't skip the swatching. Don't skip the swatching. Don't skip the swatching.
Don’t skip the swatching. Really. Don’t skip the swatching.

To this comes the delicate balance between swatching enough for a desired result and not using up too much of the fiber I have before I have even started the sharp version. Usually the fiber for my idea comes from one unique fleece. When it is gone I have no more.

6 Agonizing

Ok, so the yarn is too thick/thin/loose/tight, the fabric too dense/loose/completely off, the idea totally unrealistic and my mood too cranky. This is when I need to be kind to myself and take myself back to the power of that first sparkle. Working through challenges will make my idea stronger and better. I need to go through a number of wrong doors to make sure I know which are the right doors. Agony is part of the pattern process and will take me further along the journey. Embrace the wrong doors.

7 Knitting

Once I feel some sort of harmony in yarn, technique and details I put them all together and start knitting. Hopefully I have swatched enough to avoid having to frog too much of my precious handspun yarn.

The joy of just knitting away.
The joy of just knitting away.

For this particular project I actually completed a full-scale prototype with yarn spun from a different fleece before I dived into the sharp version of the project.

8 Thinking (I’ll remember)

Ooh, this was a good solution! I’ll keep knitting for a while to see what it looks like. I don’t have to take notes, I’ll remember how I did it. The naiveté of a budding designer is endearing.

9 Wishing (I had been more thorough)

Ok, what was I thinking? It was ages ago, there is no way I can remember what I did!

10 Doubting (If this was such a good idea after all)

Why did I suggest writing a pattern for this? I’m clearly not mature enough to understand the scope of a pattern process. Who am I to make a pattern?

The symptoms of Imposter syndrome can be very cruel at this stage. Even if I have taken notes of all the stitches there is so much more than that to a pattern. You know all those practical how-to tips that make a pattern intelligible and smooth to follow. I feel an extra responsibility here since the people who do decide to knit my project will have spent time spinning for this particular design. The pattern and the description need to allow them to work confidently through the pattern.

11 Procrastinating

Oh, a new fleece, let’s explore!

Look, a kitten, let’s play!

Come on couch, lets nap!

And all of the above. Procrastinating is a skill I have exercised to near perfection. Sometimes I wonder if I’m a project hoarder. Mid-project I get an idea for another design and my mind drifts away in the luring and glittering mist of a new baby idea.

12 Dragging (my feet)

I need to get this pattern organized. Now. The longer I wait the more I will have forgotten. Perhaps if I sneak up on myself I won’t even notice I have started organizing? Yeah, let’s do that!

(feel free to loop 8–12 any desired amount of times)

13 Sweating

Designing is one thing. It will provide me with a garment that fits me. A pattern on the other hand needs all the numbers and information for others to be able to understand and create the garment. Every letter I write in that pattern description needs to be enough and necessary for the knitter to recreate my project.

WPI, wraps per inch. A very important number to remember and add in a pattern description.
WPI, wraps per inch. A very important number to remember and add in a pattern description.

Ok. Let’s do this. These are the things I need to produce, structure, calculate, proof-read and re-proof-read.

  • An introduction, where I present the background to my project, its features, the wool, yarn and inspiration. This is where I do my best to sell my project.
  • Numbers – spinning angle, grist, yarn weight, twist, wool weight, yarn length, gauge, sizes, size alterations, needles, notions, measurements, most of which I don’t consider early in the process when it would have been very becoming to have taken some simple but utterly useful notes.
  • Illustrations, simple graphics to show the shape, size and numbers of the project. Basic skills in anatomy sketching would have been charming here.
  • Charts. Just simple graphics with rows and columns filled with pretty symbols and colours. And, of course, the same information in written text. How hard can that be?
  • Terminology and abbreviations. A pattern needs to be condensed in order to allow the recipient to make sense of the content and not get lost in the forest of words. To condense a pattern you need to use established abbreviations. You need to provide the key to the abbreviations and also an explanation of the key. It’s like transporting balloons – you can either transport them all blown up. This will take up a lot of space. Or, you can transport the empty balloons together with a pump that will provide the air needed for all the balloons. Or something like that, you get the gist.
  • Photos that show the design of the garment, the knitting structure, fit, length, details and whole. Preferably in a pretty setting and on a reasonably good hair day. I’m so grateful for my husband Dan’s photo skills and artistic eye.
  • And oh, the actual pattern. A series of very condensed abbreviations in row upon row, unraveling the secrets of the design to those who have the key. The pattern is focused on the details. At this stage I need to have convinced the knitter of the whole picture to stay with me and that it will be all worth it (see the introduction point above). To proof read the pattern part is a nightmare. A comma in the wrong place can be disastrous. Thank the goddesses for tech editors.

14 Breathing (in a square)

Gathering all the parts for the pattern can be very energy consuming. Do I have all the parts the editor needs? Am I using the right software? Did I follow the templates? Did I do that umpteenth proof reading?

A perfect square to breathe in when necessary.
A perfect square to breathe in when necessary.

I’m not on top of this. I am very thankful for Kate Atherley’s book The beginner’s guide to writing knitting patterns (she also has an online course for this). It covers a lot and keeps me a little more at ease in this part of the pattern process. But still. I’m definitely not on top of this.

Oh, let’s throw in some more procrastinating (11) here while we’re at it.

15 Submitting (slightly panicked)

I’m doing this. Now. I’m sending the 3 MB email (photos, blood, sweat and tears excluded) with the seven attachments.

In a second.

In just another second.

Now…

…-ish.

Swoosh.

(feel free to go back to 14 Breathing in a square here)

16 Obsessing (about a millisecond after submitting)

Did they get it? Can they read it? Do they like it? Will they be able to publish it? Will I be able to publish a pattern ever again?

An email lands in my inbox a couple of days later. “I was able to download and open all of the attachments. Your piece is absolutely fabulous!”

Did you hear that noise? It was my deep sigh of relief.

The obsessing phase can be active even in later phases. This blog post and the mindmap below for example may very likely be part of the obsessing phase.

Next stop on the obsessing train: The tech editor’s verdict. Choo choo!

(make your own loop cocktail of one or more of the points above. My recommendations are 9, 10, 13 and 14)

17 Missing

After having submitted the pattern it feels a bit empty. I miss my project. It has been a part of me for so long. Suddenly the work is done and I don’t know what to do with myself. The finished project is there, looking at me with big eyes. But I can’t show it off until the publication is out, which will be in another six months or so.

Just after submitting a pattern for publication I really miss my project.
Just after submitting a pattern for publication I really miss my project.

18 Resetting

Coming into and out of emotional stages always takes time for me. It is like my body and my mind aren’t in sync. But after a while, when my body has settled my mind will be able to rest in a more balanced state. Slowly, I get more susceptible to new inspiration.

A new baby idea cries for my attention.
A new baby idea cries for my attention.

One morning, when enough time has passed for me to have completely forgotten all the blood, sweat and tears I have shed through the previous pattern process, I wake up with a faint but very vivid baby idea. It whispers softly in my ear: Feed me. Feeeed mee! And so I begin a new pattern process journey (see 1 sparkling above). How hard can it be? Well, it’ll be a bumpy ride. But always worth it.

Thank you K and the gang for believing in me.

Feel free to use the mindmap chart below for your own pattern process. Perhaps you have titles or doodles of your own to add.

To make the pattern process clearer I have made a mindmap for you to follow.
To make the pattern process clearer I have made a mindmap for you to follow.

Have a look at my previous patterns:

And if you haven’t already, do listen to the latest episode of the Fiber Nation podcast, “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t knit that” about AI knitwear design. It’s hilarious.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

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

Old blog post: Twist model

One of the most foundational techniques I use and teach in spinning is opening up the twist. To understand this myself I gave birth to what I call the Twist model a couple of years ago. This is one of the first things I teach students on my courses and I believe it helps them understand what it does for the spinning quality as well as for the comfort of the spinner. In this old post of the Twist model I give you lots of examples of how and when I use it.

Happy spinning!

You can find me in several social media:

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

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.