Don’t waste your wool waste!

When I spin, I usually get a yield of around 55 % of the original weight of the fleece. The rest goes away as waste in either sorting or combing/carding. But I never throw any of the waste away. The most obvious use would be for toy stuffing, but I’m not a big toy maker. Instead, I use most of it in the garden. The wool waste has value even if it’s full of dirt, vegetable matter and poo. Or just because of that.

Pot planting

When I sow in pots I put some wool waste in the bottom to let the roots get some space. If I plan to keep the plants indoors in the winter, I also put wool on top of the soil. This has several benefits. First of all, it protects the surface of the soil so that it doesn’t dry so fast. The dirt in the wool will sink down into the soil when watering and will act as a fertilizer. If I use white wool on top of the soil, it also reflects the light, which is beneficial for the plant. Last, but not least, the wool will prevent the fungus gnats from laying their eggs in the soil.


For basically the same reason as the pots, we put wool waste on top of the garden beds at our allotment. It keeps the soil from drying out, it keeps weeds from growing and it fertilizes the soil when it rains. The wee workers in the soil will pull the fibers down into the depth and make the soil earthy and porous. The wool waste may also prevent slugs and roe deers from eating our crop. Not always, though, the bold city roe deers and the despicable Spanish slugs are nasty!

Sometimes the wool doesn’t stay in the garden beds, though. In the early spring I see lots of magpies pulling fibers to use in their nests. I can live with that.

Instant felted soles

I like to put wool waste in my shoes to make instant insulating soles. The more I use the shoes, the more the wool felts and makes excellent personalized soles.

Against visiting ants

Every March equinox, the ants come marching into our house. If we find their way in, we try to stuff the hole with a piece of wool. That usually helps and feels better than any chemical ant control.

Feeding the compost

Small pieces of wool waste from spinning I usually just put in the Bokashi compost. Or, if we have a bigger amount of wool waste that for some reason can’t be used elsewhere, we just put it in the compost. It may take a while to decompose, but eventually it will. And we use all our precious compost in the garden beds.

Wool waste water

Last, but not least, I use the water from wool rinsing. Swedish wool usually has a quite low amount of lanolin in it. I want some lanolin in the wool I spin, so I just rinse the wool in water. This gives me just the right amount of lanolin to spin. I preferably use rain water if the rain barrel is full. The used water has lots and lots of fertilizer and I use it to water the plants outside. It makes the whole garden smell like sheep, and for a little while I pretend I have my own flock.

Do you have more clever ideas for not letting the wool waste go to waste?

Crafting leadership course

A sheep made of wire

Since september I have been taking a craft leadership course at Slöjd Stockholm. The overall focus of the course is all kinds of crafting for kids, although my personal focus is spinning courses for intermediate to experienced adults. Each class runs a whole day and during the class we mix theory with practice and discussions. We have crafted with recycled textiles, wire, wool (of course), paper and wood and with techniques such as felting, braiding, bending, printing and carving.

Hopefully the course will help me become a better spinning teacher and give me ideas of new and exciting spinning classes.

A felted sheep head
Of course I had to needle felt a sheep!

Our common love of crafting

The participants have very different backgrounds, everything from DIY-ers to museum educators and archaeologists. But we have our love for crafting in common. And this has turned out to be a very strong trait. We understand each other. We know what it means to give in to the material and the process of making and we respect each other’s artistry and creativity. And most importantly: We all know the power of being in the making.

A cloth bird with colourful embroidery
Homework over the holidays: Make an embroidered cloth bird!

Five minutes after we have started crafting the room is totally quiet, but at the same time full of activity. Everyone is deeply focused on the making. Nobody knows what the others are doing, but we all know that our minds are deeply and joyfully engaged in the crafting process. It is such a bliss to realize that we all share this deep love and respect for the materials and the making.

The beauty of the materials

Today was carving day. We worked with axe, knife and shaving horse. The smell of the fresh wood and the cool feeling against my hands gave me goosebumps. The satisfaction of making a raw piece of wood flat and smooth with the draw knife in the shaving horse really surprised me. And who knew carving with an axe could be so much fun!

A carved insect
We made (sp)insects with the help of knives, drawknives and axes.

The crafting mind

After the course I needed to get some fruit, so I went in to the mall nearby. And I had a massive culture shock. From the crafting room filled with creativity, flow and concentrated joy to bright lights, commercialism and plastic. From sweet music that makes my heart tingle to white noise that gets in the way of my thoughts. I made a mental note about what crafting does for me. Perhaps more people should try it.

I enter the space of making
where the making makes me

(from my spinning video For the love of spinning)

I have a new toy – the pin loom

a small loom and lots of finished woven squares

Spinning and fiber work are material sports, there is no point in denying it.

A couple of days ago, I came across an Interweave post on pin loom weaving for hand spinners. At the same time I had a stash cleaning since my handspun storage was bursting. And I realized that the pin loom would solve my problem.

How to weave on a pin loom

A pin loom is a small 10×10 cm loom that only needs a short piece of yarn for one square. The first three passes are just threaded between the pins – vertical, horizontal and vertical again – and on the fourth you weave horizontally with a long needle. You weave in the ends and the square is finished in under 20 minutes. Since all the squares are made in the same way it is easy to sew them together in the selvedges.

Weaving with my handspans

I bought a Zoom loom from Schacht. The technique is really addictive. I like how different yarns behave in different ways on the loom (and off). I spin a lot of yarn, and there is often a small ball of yarn left when I have finished a project. And I can’t throw away these odd balls, no matter how small they are. I have a hard time throwing away even short lengths that I cut off from weaving in ends. I even save the last piece that is left of the warp after cutting it (effsingar is the Swedish word, is there a name for it in English?). There is so much time and love put into these short peaces of yarn and I can’t just ignore that.

An odyssey of my spinning history

When I weave these scraps of yarn it is like an odyssey of all my previous handspun yarns – I get to see and feel them all over again and they bring back memories of projects past. I can also see the development in my own spinning from the uneven, loosely spun yarns in the beginning six years ago to the more consistent ones I make today.

Planned project

My plan is to do what the author Deborah Held suggests in the Interweave post: I will make squares of all my small balls of leftover handspun yarns, sew them together, felt and make a blanket of perhaps 15 x 20 squares. I have got a lot of handspun leftovers in my stash so I think it is a realistic idea. And so far it looks like the colours will go well together.

A small loom and lots of woven squares
Pin looming my little heart out. The yarn on the loom is a z-spun yarn I made in 2012, way too loosely spun, used for a pair of twined knitted mittens I use almost daily

Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl

Here it is, finally. My second bigger video project Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl.

Slow fashion and the value of a craft

I wanted to make another video on the slow fashion theme. Also, I wanted to show some other aspects of crafting. I have seen people sell handmade items for basically the cost of the material, which is such a shame. There is so much talent, time, effort and experience behind a handmade item. People don’t give it a second thought in a society where we expect to have stuff and we are in turn expected to buy more stuff (that has preferably been shipped three times around the globe). Giant store buildings are popping up like mushrooms because we don’t have any space left for all our stuff. This video is about the value of good craftmanship and all the time, tradition, skill and effort that lie behind it.

Josefin Waltin sitting outside by the spinning wheel. There are garden chairs around her with smartphones attached to them for filming.
In the studio, with garden chairs as camera stands. Photo by Dan Waltin

For the love of spinning

The video is also about the love of spinning. I try to capture the way spinning gives me that meditative feeling, how the motions and the touch of the fibers gives me serenity and a sense of weightlessness.

The leading fleeces

The fiber in the shawl is from two natural colour Shetland fleeces. The warp was spun worsted on a spinning wheel from hand-combed tops and 2-plied. The weft was spun woolen on a Navajo spindle from hand-carded rolags into a singles yarn. The shawl was woven on a 60 cm rigid heddle loom on double width.

Josefin Waltin standing in field with plaid shawl over her arm, sheep in the background.
The finished shawl. Photo by Dan Waltin

For tools and designers, see this post. For a connection to Outlander, look here.