This lady in northern India is spinning on a support spindle. However, she doesn’t have the time to just sit and spin, so she has arranged a spoon-like tool to act as a bowl, fastened in her apron. This way she can spin while she is walking. The man interviewing her says she is spinning wool, but it does look more like cotton to me.
I was really inspired when I saw this video and a little over a year ago I tried to do the same. I shot a silly little video with support spinning with a spoon while walking. Enjoy!
This time I haven’t done the filming myself, so the quality is much better. My husband was behind the camera, which means I had a great photographer and a great camera. And my fourteen year old made the sweet yarnimations. Locations are at home in Stockholm, in the Sazkammergut area in Austria and in Tiveden, Sweden, which are all my favourite places.
I had an idea of a spinning video with just beautiful spinning in beautiful scenery, to illustrate sort of a poem, an ode to spinning. So, during the summer we scouted locations wherever we went, and tripod, camera and spindle was set up where the spot was spot on. I saved all the clips for winter, so that I could make a beautiful spinning video at a time when I would miss light and summer the most.
When I spin
I feel the wool in my hands
through its journey
from sheep to yarn
I hear the quiet hum of the spindle tip
I see the wheel turning
chasing its own shadow
in the sunlight
When I spin
I absorb the rhythm
the treadling of my feet
the flicking of the spindle
the movement of my hands
between spun and unspun
a motion with no beginning
and no end
When I spin
I receive the gift of weightlessness
and enter another dimension
I allow my thoughts to come and go
without holding back
in the gentle flow
finding the space between my thoughts
I enter the space of making
where the making makes me
When I spin
of sound, vision and rhythm
are captured in the yarn
as if they were fibers
Mistakes are spun into the thread
the stories they tell
All the choices I have made along the way
make a map of what I have learned
like an echo
The more I spin, the deeper it goes
From the sensation
through the rhythm
into my mind
fueling my experience
going back into my fingers
round and round
like the spinning itself
When I spin
the air around me smiles
the sunlight dusts my yarn with golden sparkle
and I thank all sheep for the gift of wool
I become a better me
because of the love
In a previous post I wrote about fleece sorting and my fascination of the diversity within a breed and within a single fleece. I chose a few staples from my recent purchase to show you.
The first fleece is a Shetland fleece in the colour Mooskit. As you can see, there is a variation in colour, staple length, crimp, fiber fineness and staple definition. The shortest fibers on the left are from the neck area, very short, crimpy and fine, they remind me more of Swedish finewool than Shetland wool. I would card this and spin with long draw on either a Navajo spindle or a supported spindle. I would probably treat the short fibers on the far right the same way. The two staples closest to the ruler are longer, darker and a bit coarser, perhaps from the rump area. I could either comb and spin these separately for a more sturdy yarn, or together with finer parts of the fleece to give the yarn strength and colour. The long light staples on the mid left (from the sides) look like they are dying to be combed and spun with short draw on a spinning wheel. On these staples you can also see the break in the fibers about 1 cm from the cut end, where the old fibers are thinned and new have started to grow out. This fleece had such breaks on some parts and they were easy enough to pull off. Combing would also remove these bits.
The second fleece is a white Shetland fleece. The variation is not as big as in the Mooskit fleece, but there are still differences. From very fine, crimpy and clean back and side wool to coarser and more wavy belly and rump wool. I could choose to comb it all together for several skeins of consistent yarn. I could also divide the fleece into different qualities for different purposes. I would love to use some of the finest parts to practice spinning extremely thin yarn.
Both of these fleeces are Shetland fleeces and graded as super fine, but they look quite different. I have another six Shetland fleeces and they have all varied quite a lot. Shetland sheep is a primitive breed, which I have written about in an earlier post. Among other things, they shed their wool as I showed in the Mooskit fleece above. All my other coloured Shetland fleeces have had breaks in the staples where new and old fibers meet. But much less the white fleeces. My theory is that there has been more pressure on the breeding of the white sheep than on the coloured ones and thus this feature has disappeared in some of the white sheep.
The advantage I have as a hand spinner is that I can dive into a fleece like this and plan how I want to use it. I can sort it in an endless amount of ways to fit my purposes or I could combine different parts of the fleece to get the most out of the different qualities of different parts of the fleece. I can play, experiment and above all, learn from what I see in one single fleece if I just look close enough.
Last autumn, when I made a video at Överjärva gård, I happened to buy another fleece. I didn’t mean to, but I saw it in the wool shop and I immediately realized that it needed me. It was half a fleece from the Swedish finewool sheep Engla.
When I sorted the fleece, I decided to divide it into different piles according to the quality of the wool. I ended up with three piles – the very short and fine (neck) staples, the medium length staples and the longer staples.
The fleece was a joy to work with – it was clean, easy to sort, wonderful to comb and card and dreamy to spin. I do love Swedish finewool. I can honestly say it has been one of my very favourite fleeces.
I bought 800 g of fleece and ended up with a total of about 440 g of yarn.
So, I carded the fine neck staples and spun them with long draw on a supported spindle and made a 3-ply yarn out of the singles and I was very happy with the result. A light, airy and even yarn with lots of bounce. I also made a video about the plying.
I carded the medium staples as well and spun them with long draw on a Navajo spindle. One of the yarns I made was a prize winner – The sheep, the chicken, the pig and the lion. I also spun several skeins of singles on a Navajo spindle.
I combed the longest staples and spun them with short draw on a supported spindle. I experimented with chain-plying “on the fly” and made two videos about it, a detailed video about how to ply-on-the-fly on a supported spindle and another one where I show how I start from an empty spindle with the ply-on-the-fly method.
I feel very fortunate as a hand spinner to be able to sort my fleeces to make different kinds of yarns, whether it is according to colour, structure or length. It can result in really unique yarns. And I learn so much from it.
A couple of weeks ago I published a video on how to ply on the fly on a supported spindle. I am pleased about how it came out and it was very well received. But there was one thing missing with it, and two viewers were kind enough to point that out for me: I hadn’t shown how to start. And there is a reason fort that: I didn’t know how to, which was very unprofessional of me. I had searched youtube for a video on the technique and found Ioana’s video, but she doesn’t explain that either. So, when I recorded the video I just made an unorganized start and hoped it would be tight enough. I definitely did not put that part in the video.
The problem with two directions
After a few days of analyzing and experimenting I have now come to the conclusion that the easiest and most straightforward way to start to ply on the fly on a supported spindle is to use a leader. I usually don’t use a leader when spinning on a spindle because I want the spinning as “clean” as possible. However, in this case I find it justifiable. When plying on the fly you are working with both singles and plied yarn. This means that there are sections with fiber spun clockwise and counter-clockwise in the same stretch of yarn. Also, the sections are wound onto the shaft in different directions. So, at the loop, the yarn of different directions wound in different directions meet, which makes the point of the loop a critical one and the loop needs to be properly secured at the loop itself (onto he tip) and at the two yarn ends below (by winding the yarn tightly around the ends). And because of this point being so critical, I choose to use a leader that won’t break when changing directions of the spinning and winding on.
So, I make a quite long leader, make a slip knot at the middle of the leader and tie one end of leader onto the shaft just above the whorl. I wind the leader counter-clockwise around the shaft until I get to the loop. I secure the loop onto the bottom tip of the shaft. After that I secure both leader ends onto the shaft again, now winding the yarn clockwise, just as I have shown in the first video. After that, I spiral the leader up the shaft, clockwise and start spinning! The video is about 3,5 minutes, but only the first minute shows how I start.
Edit: I just discovered a mistake in the video. At 1:41 text should read: “Transfer slip knot to *index finger* of spinning hand”.
This weekend I attended the Swedish fleece and spinning championships at Wålstedts textilverkstad in Dala-Floda. I was there as a visitor, but also as an instructor and a contestant.
For the fleece championships, sheep owners sent in their best fleeces for judgment. The fleeces were judged by factors as evenness, crimp, fiber thickness, staple length, elasticity’s softness, silkiness etc. There were two basic categories, heritage breeds and crossbred.
Since there were so many fleeces, the jury had made more sub-categories so that the same kind of fleeces competed against each other – Rya, Finweool, Värmland, Crossbred, Gotland/Leicester etc. This competition is a very important part of Swedish wool production. It helps the sheep owners make good choices in breeding when it comes to fleece quality. There was a very high quality in the fleeces and I wanted to dive into all of them.
There were many proud winners and after the prize ceremony the winning fleeces were auctioned. I got my hands on two of my favourite fleeces.
The first fleece I bought was a gold medalist in the heritage breed category. It is a beautiful Finewool/Rya ewe mix breed in a beautiful dark grey colour from Boda backe sheep farm. The overall quality the fleece is mainly soft and crimpy Finewool. The softness is very unusual for a ewe, that on top of that was shorn in the spring. The jury’s verdict was: “A very clean, soft and likable spring fleece. Easy to card, airy staple with mostly undercoat. An all-round fleece which is easy to manage and can be used for many purposes.”
My second purchase was a bronze medalist in the heritage Värmland category. A wonderfully soft Värmland lamb fleece from Sussanne Sörensen’s flock in Löberöd. The jury’s verdict was “A beautiful fleece with an interesting colour, long undercoat and soft overcoat and a medieval touch”. The undercoat is 14 cm and the overcoat 22 cm.
The event also hosted the Swedish hand spinning championship, in which I got a bronze medal! More about that in an earlier post.
I also taught a class in supported spindle spinning, which, as always, was a great experience and I got lots of inspiration from it.
On top of it all, my husband and I got a chance to see some beautiful autumn scenery.
I just won the bronze medal in the Swedish hand spinning championships 2017!
It is a competition where the prize is really valuable feedback on all the contestants’ spinning and an opportunity to give yourself a spinning challenge. The Swedish championships have been running for three years now and I have participated in all of them. Every year there have been two different categories – one regular and one advanced – and contestants are welcome to enter one or both of them.
This year I participated in both categories. All the contestants got the same fluff sent home together with instructions and the finished yarn was sent to a jury and the winners were announced at the Swedish spinning and wool championships festival at Wålstedts spinning mill in Dala-Floda. More about the event in a later post.
The rules of the game
The regular category was a 3-ply yarn. We received batts of two different colours with which we were allowed to play with as we liked. Originally I had planned to spin a gradient yarn, but when I got the batts I realized that the colours were too similar to each other to make a good gradient. Yet, they were too different to work with singles spun in the different colours without looking too speckled. So I simply pre-drafted from both of the batts similarly to get both of the colours in each singles.
Spinning for the championships
The different batts had slightly different feelings to them, I think one of them was undyed. I don’t spin from batts very often and I’m not very used to spinning fluff without lanolin. I spun the singles with long draw on a supported spindle to get as much air in the yarn as possible, and plied it on my wheel. And it turned out nicely. But not the best yarn I have spun and not my favourite spinning either.
I did not get any prize for this yarn. However, I got some very constructive feedback from the jury. They said that it was evenly spun, but a bit overplied in some areas.
The advanced category was a cabled yarn, spun with two different colours of fluff from batts. I really like these colours, both individually and together.
This time I chose to spin three of the singles in one colour and the fourth in the other colour. I dizzed the fiber through my needle gauge to get an even pre-draft. I spun the singles woolen in hope of a soft and airy result.
The spinning required lots of focus, again because the lack of lanolin and my not being used to it.
The jury’s verdict was “An attractive combination of the colours in the cabling that gives an exciting speckledness to the knitting.” It was a real challenge spinning it and I’m very proud of my work.
My friend Anna is a master drop spindle spinner and she often plies on the fly. Ply on the fly is a technique to spin a yarn on a spindle and ply alternately. You spin a bit, secure the end of the single, and chain-ply the part you just spun. I have never practised it, but it is a smart way to finish a yarn without having the trouble of unwinding the spindle in between. I have seen a few videos on this technique, but only on drop spindles. So today I made a search on plying on the fly on a supported spindle. And I found Ioana’s video. She has a good technique and explains it very well.
The basics are: you spin clockwise and wind onto the temporary cop and butterfly the single onto your fiber hand, just as you would normally do. For plying, you pick up a loop from the bottom of the shaft and chain-ply counter-clockwise. When almost all the butterflied single is plied, you secure the loop at the bottom again and go back to spinning.
I wanted to make my own video, soI went to the allotment with my garden chair/camera stand and started spinning! I put in explaining in text and slow motion sections to show the technique as clearly as possible. However, there are many steps in a short segment of time and you might want to watch it more than once to get the technique. Also, look at Ioana’s video for additional explanation of the method.
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a lottery at the Woodland woodworking forum at Ravelry. The turner Carl had made four beautiful one of a kind wand supported spindles in the colours of the Hogwarts houses – Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin. All you had to do was to post which spindle you were interested in and Carl would draw the winners. Each winner would be able to buy their chosen spindle. I really wanted the Ravenclaw spindle, but it was already spoken for by the person who had originally suggested the idea of the house colour wands. Instead I chose the Gryffindor spindle. I didn’t really believe in winning, since most of the posts were on Gryffindor. But – like magic – I did!
So, a couple of days ago an owl landed at my doorstep with the wand in its beak. And I made a short video. Don’t forget the sound!