Portrait of a sweater

At the Jämtland wool webinar a couple of weeks ago I showed a sweater made in Jämtland wool and how it had been worn on the elbow after five years. After the webinar I got a request from a follower. She asked me to make some sort of portrait of a sweater and show different stages of its life. I found the idea brilliant and I am happy to meet her request. So here it is – the portrait a sweater.

A woman walking outdoors. She is wearing a grey sweater with white spinning wheels in a stranded knitted yoke.
The spinning wheel sweater straight off the needles in 2015

Everyday and wool festivities

I have worn my sweater for both everyday and festive occasions. As an everyday sweater I have worn it at home and at work. It is a warm sweater that works for a large part of the year.

At work nobody really notices it, to most of my colleagues it is just another knitted sweater. But when I go to wool and spinning events it is definitely a festive sweater – people see the work that has been put into it, they smile heartily at the spinning wheels on the yoke and some recognize it from my videos.

In 2018 I attended the Swedish fleece and spinning championships. That is definitely a festive occasion.

No matter where or when I wear it, it always feels comfortable and safe.

A five year portrait

I started the making of the sweater in 2014 by shearing the Swedish finewool lamb Pia-Lotta. The whole process is well documented and actually the main character of one of my earliest videos Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater (also available in Swedish). In the video I go through all the stages from raw fleece to a finished sweater. For that reason alone this is the perfect sweater to use in a portrait. In this portrait I document the stages of wearing.

I knit the sweater in the Fileuse design by Valérie Miller.

A new spinner

When I made the sweater I had been spinning for two years. Since then I have improved my spinning for another six years. While it is far from my best spinning it is definitely one of my favourite sweaters. And one of my most worn.

Looking at the sweater today I see many things I would have done differently. The grey yarn is unevenly and loosely spun. I think the yarn ranges between light fingering and sport weight. A consistent fingering weight yarn with more twist would fill out the stitches better and give a more finished overall impression.

The yarn is quite thin and unevenly spun at the neckline.

Had I placed the bulkier yarn on the elbows they would probably be less worn now. The white finewool yarn is also a bit unevenly spun. However, it is woolen spun and the uneven parts don’t show as much as they do in the worsted spun grey Jämtland yarn.

I placed the bulkiest skein on the bottom of the sweater. Perhaps it would have worked better on the elbows.

Tales from the elbows

As I wrote in the preamble of this post the sweater is worn at the elbows. I have seen the thinned-out threads for a while and a couple of months ago my daughter told me there was a hole on the right elbow.

I mended it with parallel blanket stitches over a horizontal help thread. That is the only mending technique I have learned.

A darning needle mending a knitted sweater.
A mended underarm on a hoody in a commercial yarn. The sweater has been worn a lot during three years.

I must have been too greedy with the mending since there is a hole on the same elbow again, just underneath the first mending. I should have mended a bigger area.

Portrait of a sweater. A new hole on the right elbow, just underneath the first mending.

I stand at work and use the mouse with my left hand. The right elbow often leans on the table top. I guess that is the reason why my right elbow has thinned out faster than the left. The left elbow is thin, but not worn through.

A thin spot on my left elbow.

Don’t get me wrong – Five years is a long time for a sweater that I have worn so often. I remember finishing the sweater just in time to bring it to Shetland wool week in 2015. In Shetland I bought yarn for a hoodie at Jamieson & Smith and started knitting it, so the hoodie is a bit younger. I have worn these two sweaters equally – the spinning wheel sweater in handspun and the hoodie in commercial yarn. I started mending the hoodie in several places two years ago (see picture above of a sweater with stripes). My first mending of the handspun spinning wheel sweater (which is older) was this year.

A new mending

I used help threads for my new patch.

To mend the new hole I removed the old mending. I figured it would be better to make a bigger mending than to overlap the old one. To find a suitable mending technique I used Kerstin Neumüller’s excellent and methodical book Mend and patch (available of course in Swedish and also German and French). I attached help threads over the hole and followed the knitted pattern with a darning needle threaded with the mending yarn.

A mended elbow hole! I removed the help threads and wove in the ends after I had finished the mending.

The mending technique description calls for a thinner yarn than the original one to avoid a bulky patch. I went the other way and used a bulkier yarn. The elbow is an exposed area and I didn’t want to have to mend a third time. The yarn I used is a handspun Gotland yarn I made for socks. It has two Z-spun threads and one S-spun thread that are plied S for extra strength. I hope it does the trick!

The spinning wheel sweater in 2020, with a mended elbow. The portrait of a sweater has changed.

I decided to make an invisible mending. It blends into the original textile quite well. However, I now understand the beauty of visible mending. With yarn in a contrasting colour you will actually see what you are doing when you mend the hole!

Other signs of wear

I inspected the sweater to look for other signs of wear. I saw a thin spot on the cuff of the right arm. However, I think this part is slightly felted since it is knit in Swedish finewool which felts easily. I don’t think the risk of further damage is alarming. I have it on my watch list but I haven’t done anything to fix it yet.

Close-up of a knitted piece of fabric with a worn-out edge.
A thin spot on the right cuff.

I also looked for pilling and didn’t find much at all. There might have been pilling in the early days and if there was it has all been worn off by now.

All in all I think this sweater has really worn well. I have worn it so many times and it is a wonder that it still looks so nice. I plan to wear it for at least another five years.

Make that sweater

You don’t have to be a master spinner to spin yarn for a whole sweater. There will be uneven parts and flaws. You will be able to look at it later and understand what you would have done differently today. You will also look at your accomplishment with pride. All the flaws you see are seeds to new learning. All the mistakes you see will remind you of what you have learned and how you have used that piece of learning in later projects.

Make that sweater. Embrace the mistakes as gifts of learning and wear your accomplishment with pride. When you see thin patches and holes, mend them and be even more proud. Make your own portrait of a sweater, and many sweaters to come.

Thank you for the inspiration Sissel!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Curtain

I don’t like curtains in our home just for the sake of curtains. They need a purpose – to keep light out or for privacy. My husband suggested we get a curtain for the front door, to keep the draft out. That is definitely a purpose and I agreed. I suggested I would weave it.

This is part four of a stashbuster series. The first post was about Rya knots, the second about weaving bands and in the third I made a blanket out of pin loom squares.

A loosely woven fabric in natural white with dark grey stripes.
A loosely woven fabric in natural white and dark grey wool singles and commercial flax.

Weaving

When I came up with the idea to weave Dan’s draft curtain I saw before me a loosely woven fabric that would be a perfect curtain. “Is a loose weave really the perfect draft stopper?” you say. Hold your horses, I’ll get back to that in a bit, all things in due time.

Bulky singles and sleek flax

I love spinning bulky, low twist singles on my Navajo spindle. I use them as weft in weaving projects. If you are in Sweden you can take a two-day course in Navajo spindle spinning in March!

Through the years I have spun quite a lot of bulky singles on my Navajo spindle and I haven’t used all the skeins that I have spun. When I took inventory in my bursting stash I found quite a lot of skeins of bulky singles in natural white and dark grey.

Close-up of natural white skeins of bulky singles.
Bulky singles from my stash for the weft.

I decided to use them in the curtain, there were more than enough skeins for a curtain. I also had a whole cone of commercial flax yarn that would be perfect as warp – strong, sleek and with that shine only flax can give you.

Double width – double the fun?

My loom is only 60 cm wide so I warped for a double width weave. I know from previous experience that flax yarn is a challenge to weave with and that proved to be accurate in this project as well.

Close-up of a weave in a loom. Natural white and dark grey stripes of wool yarn with flax warp.
Double layered curtain weave.

The double weave in combination with the loose fabric gave me an extra challenge. The top layer stayed reasonably taut while the bottom layer sagged and fussed. Trying to pass the shuttle through the bottom shed was a fight every time and really tough on my eyes, trying to identify the home of each warp thread. I was afraid that the left and right sides of the curtain would look different, but I kept weaving. I was really quite frustrated at times.

A woman cutting a warp.
The cutting down of the curtain warp will reveal all the secret of the fold and the second layer of the double width.

That is the beauty of weaving with handspun, though – so many things can go wrong and I can’t allow myself to give up. So much love, skill and time have been invested in the project and I just have to finish it. If there are problems along the way I need to fix them. End of story.

Cut

When I cut down the warp the weave actually looked good! It was a bit loose in the fold, but better too loose than too tight, right? A wave of joy rushed through me when I realized that I could actually make something with this cloth.

A person unfolding a cut-down warp.
The curtain weave was a bit loose in the fold but looked otherwise surprisingly good.

Sewing

Since the fabric was so loosely woven there was no way I would be able to sew the curtain on a sewing machine. Instead I settled down with waxed flax thread and started hand stitching.

The first thing I did was to secure the raw edges with a simple whip stitch so that the ends wouldn’t fray. When they were all secured I stitched hems on both ends after having soaked the cloth.

Loops

A curtain hanging on a forged rod with loops made of a woven band.
A hand woven band of Shetland wool for curtain loops. You can see a second curtain behind my woven curtain.

At first I had planned to make a channel for the curtain rod to go through, but as I was having my band weaving frenzy I realized I could make loops of the band to hang the curtain in. It probably has a fancy curtain name that I don’t even know in Swedish. Anyway, I cut half of the band in six peaces, whip stitched the edges and backstitched them onto the upper hem. I saved the other half of the band for a simple tieback.

A hand forged curtain rod and rod holder. An edge of a curtain hangs in loops from the rod.
A simple hand forged curtain rod and rod holder.

The curtain was finished. But at the same time it didn’t feel finished. There was something missing. It was loose and transparent and didn’t look curtainy enough. I remembered that we had an undyed linen sheet in the cloth stash. It had got a rip and we saved it to use for mending. Perhaps I could make a background curtain to give the whole assembly a more curtainy look?

A parachute accident

I found the sheet. As I unfolded it I tried to remember where the rip had been and hoped that it wouldn’t be a problem for my project. After all, a sheet is a lot larger than a front door, and the rip might be placed outside of my measurement needs. This thought lasted for a millisecond.

When the sheet was fully unfolded I saw it.

A circular hole, the size of a human head.

Larger than a human head.

In the middle of the sheet.

One of my darling little raspberry pies had had a parachute period a few years ago – he made parachutes for his toy figures and threw them up in the air to let them quietly fall down. My sweet little crafter. While I am proud that he instinctively started to make a parachute himself instead of asking for a store-bought parachute, I clearly remember having taught him how to cut fabric long before the parachute accident. In the middle of the sheet! When I muttered about fabric cutting etiquette my now almost seventeen-year-old said that the chance to blame anyone had expired a long time ago and that he didn’t have any guilt in it anymore. He was probably right. But still. A hole.

A picture of the hole would have been appropriate here. But the wound is too fresh.

Mending

I really wanted to make this curtain with stashed, up-cycled and reused materials only. So I had to find a way to fill the parachute hole instead of buying a new back curtain material. My initial idea was to take the leftover sheet cloth and make a visible mending with embroidery around the join. This seemed like a big project, though, so I decided to procrastinate for a while.

After a while I remembered that I had bought some lace ribbon at a flea market last summer. What if I could make a join with the lace? That would mend the hole and make a pretty detail on the back curtain.

A linen curtain with a lace inlay
A lace mended parachute accident.

I hand-stitched the raw edges of the sheet, hemmed it and added the lace where the parachute section had been. This really made the sheet turn into a real curtain instead of just an emergency solution. The back curtain looked lovely. I sewed snap fasteners on the front and back curtains so that I could detach them for washing.

I also went through the curtain and evened out any uneven shuttlings with a tapestry needle. The fold looks a lot better and hardly shows at all.

The last thing I added was curtain weights in the bottom hems of both curtains. This was the only item I bought. That and the curtain rod. It is hand forged locally, though and quite sustainably produced.

A real curtain

A finished handwoven curtain from spindle spun weft and commercial flax warp. Handwoven bands for rod loops and tieback and a back curtain made of a recycled linen sheet and a vintage lace ribbon.
A finished handwoven curtain from spindle spun weft and commercial flax warp. Handspun, handwoven bands for rod loops and tieback and a back curtain made of a recycled linen sheet and a vintage lace ribbon. All seams are hand sewn.

I wanted the simplicity of the loosely spun wool with the shine of the flax. The loose weave shows off the wool and gives the weave an impression of being both bulky and delicate at the same time. The loosely spun singles with the loose weave gives the curtain an almost raw look.

A curtain hanging in front of an open door.
The finished curtain keeps the draft out (especially if you close the door).

Together with the back curtain and the weights in the bottom hems the whole assembly has a lovely drape. It even looks pretty and finished from the back.

A linen sheet curtain tied back with a woven band.
The back of the curtain with the linen sheet.

I am so happy with the result. It turned out better than I had imagined and it feels very grown up.

A linen curtain with a lace ribbon join.
Billowing lace that is just the right amount of not too lacey.

A slow curtain

This curtain took time to make and assemble. The slowness of the weaving and hand stitching gave me time to think and make decisions that I wouldn’t have made had it been a faster process. I have said it before and I certainly say it now: Slow is a superpower that allows us to think and make grounded decisions.

A tied-back curtain.
A slow curtain made by hand and heart.

Every time I walk through the door my heart sings when I pass the curtain. So much love, care and creativity was put into this project. The fact that I managed to turn it into something that we use every day makes it even more precious.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Wool conference

A fleece with long and shiny locks with almost no crimp

A while ago I attended a two-day wool conference for wool entrepreneurs. The conference was very popular and I was flattered just to be invited. All kinds of businesses were represented, from one-woman companies like mine to world-wide selling brands like Fjällräven. In today’s blog post I summarize some of the lectures.

Swedish wool for a sustainable future

The theme of the conference was Swedish wool for a sustainable future. I/5 of Swedish wool is used while the rest (around 1400 tons) is burnt, destroyed or otherwise wasted. At the same time we import 300 tons of wool, preferably from New Zealand.

The wool conference was crowded with wool enthusiasts on the edges of their seats to take part of the scrumptious program. There were lots of lecturers, all of which we greeted with a Jyväskylä applause. In a Jyväslylä applause the audience gives the new speaker a standing ovation when they go on stage. All the lecturers felt very welcomed!

You can see the slides from most of the presentations here. Some of them are in English.

The conference also included workshops about how to improve the value chain of Swedish wool. We also workshopped around the possibility of a national wool event. Many ideas were outlined and I look forward to the proceedings of these ideas.

Let’s stop wasting Swedish wool

The Innovation manager at Fjällräven (who make the popular Kånken backpack) talked under the headline “Let’s stop wasting Swedish wool now” about how they had started to use Swedish wool in their products. It turned out that many customers are afraid of itching material if the label says anything else than merino. So they started using Swedish wool for purposes not next-to-skin, like filling in down-like jackets and pressed together to form the back plate of backpacks.

Fjällräven also started a cooperation with Swedish sheep farms with Jämtland sheep. The Jämtland sheep is our newest breed, a cross between Swedish meat breeds and merino which gives a very fine wool with elasticity and shine. The compant made a small-scale edition of sweaters and showed that it really works to produce garments in Swedish wool.

Long locks of very fine wool and lots of crimp.
Jämtland wool has the crimpiest crimp.

The innovation manager at Fjällräven saw my embroidery on my Fjällräven wool backpack. He snapped a picture of it and sent it to the designer who loved my embroidered pimping!

A dark grey woolen backpack with a flower embroidery on the flap.
My Fjällräven backpack is made of wool. The embroidery is my own.

Circular wool clothes

The Swedish sheep breeders’ association talked about the project Circular wool clothes. In the project they network, invent and collects knowledge about the whole circular value chain from shearing, through use and recycling and eventually composting. The goal is to economize all the parts of the chain and find use in every fiber including residue and bi-products. The project is a cooperation between The Swedish Sheep breeders’ association, the Swedish farmers’ association, the University of Borås and the Swedish brands Filippa K and Röjk.

Alice Lund handwoven textiles

Alice Lund textiles is a handweaving company specializing in textiles for both private public spaces. Many of their textiles can be seen in churches in the county of Dalarna or in lobbies around the U.S. and Japan. Through their products but also through research and lectures they spread knowledge about handweaving as well as the immaterial cultural heritage.

Functional products from Swedish wool

CC wool has found a way to use crossbred wool of uneven quality, wool that many sheep farmers have had trouble finding use for. They collect wool from local sheep farmers, educate them on wool quality and shearing conditions to make sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives for animal owners. The company makes non woven horse and dog blankets from the wool they collect.

A basket with rolled-up wool blankets.
CC wool makes dog and horse blankets out of uneven crossbred wool

Scouring wool

Ullkontoret is a Swedish scouring mill for wool. They started to investigate how to use the vast amounts of Swedish wool that was wasted. Regardless of the ideas they came up with, there was always the same obstacle: The wool needed to be washed. So they bought a wool laundry from Spain and started Sweden’s first wool laundry in a larger scale. They use rain-water only and very little detergent. The waste water is used on their own fields.

Ullkontoret make needle punched felt products of some of the wool they wash.

A lot of the washed wool is used to make needle punched felt. I buy it regularly and use it to maka spindle cases for my spinning courses.

Three tubes made in felted wool.
I make spindle cases from needle punched felt from Ullkontoret. Photo by Dan Waltin

Norway and wool

One problem for the Swedish wool industry is that there is no classification system of Swedish wool. Norway has a long and strong tradition of sheep farming and wool use. Two representatives from the Norwegian company Norilia talked at the wool conference about Norwegian wool and how it is being taken care of. Norwegian sheep farmers receive subsidies to make sure the goals for sheep industries are reached and to improve the quality of Norwegian wool.

Wool from Norwegian pelssau

No waste

Norway produces over 4000 tons of wool every year. 75% of this wool is being exported. The remaining 25 % goes to Norwegian woolen mills. Nothing is wasted. Even the thigh and belly wool is saved and made into rugs. This can be compared to Swedish wool – we burn (oh, the irony), destroy or otherwise waste 80 % of our wool. This figure used to be a lot higher, though and the larger interest in taking care of Swedish wool is a proof that we are better at using this wonderful resource. It is also the reason I started spinning. I wanted to do what I could to use Swedish wool to its best potential.

A classifying system

Norway also has a system of classifying wool, something that Sweden lacks. There are 16 categories of wool in the Norwegian classifying system, sorting after when the wool was shorn (whole-year, spring shearing or autumn shearing), breed type and if the wool is very coarse, has vegetable matter or has otherwise a lower quality. 3800 tons of raw Norwegian wool is classified at one of the eight wool stations every year.

The Swedish wool agency

One initiative that has been taken lately is the Swedish wool agency – a digital marketplace for Swedish wool. It has been born out of the fact that so much Swedish wool goes to waste. Fia Söderberg has developed the digital marketplace where buyers can find the wool they are interested in and sheep owners can find use for their wool and get paid. The wool agency also strives to increase the general knowledge about Swedish wool and to make it more easily available to buyers.

When you visit the wool agency you will see ads that can contain information of sheep breed, when the wool was shorn, if the sheep was sheared by a professional shearer, staple length, degree of vegetable matter and other useful information. The agency also provides guides for buyers and sellers that list important things to think about when shearing and what potential buyers may be interested in.

A happy sheep

Shepherdess, agronomist and lamb advisor Titti Strömne has been around sheep for the past 41 years. She calls her business Glada Fåret, the happy sheep. Through this time she has experienced 16 generations of Swedish finewool sheep. At the conference she talked about wool quality. Swedish finewool sheep is one of three Swedish sheep breeds that is bred for the wool quality, alongside Jämtland sheep and Rya sheep.

Wool quality can come from both genetic and environmental factors.

Genetics

To be able to breed for wool quality the wool needs to be measured and registered. Aspects that are measured are staple length, homogeneity, shine, density and quality. The results are transformed to breeding values to help the sheep farmer decide which animals to use for breeding.

A fleece with short and crimpy staples
I always come back to Swedish finewool.

In Sweden around 3 % of all sheep are measured and registered for wool quality. This can be compared to 30% being measured and inspected for fur quality (to make pretty skins).

Environmental factors

Nutrition and stress can influence the quality of the wool. The summer of 2018 was a very dry one. Many sheep farmers had trouble finding pastures and some had to slaughter their animals. The sheep farmer’s care for the animals will have an impact on the quality of the wool through the whole length of the staple. A happy sheep will produce higher quality wool.

Happy is the new black

One of the most interesting lectures for me was about trends. A Swedish trend scout started by saying that consumption is so old and out. In 2020 people won’t want to consume stuff anymore – lots of stores run out of business. The customers want to live more sustainable lives. He said that in 2020 people will be interested in products that

  • have a story
  • are genuine
  • are locally produced
  • are made in sustainable materials.

His conclusion was that people don’t want more stuff. Instead they want experiences that give them joy – Happy is the new black.

With these words I feel that the services I provide – blog posts, videos, webinars and courses in spinning and wool – are right on track. I have said it before and I will say it again. And again:

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Reuse

A while ago I finished a weave. That moment when you cut the warp is a scary one, especially when the warp is handspun. I have saved all my handspun thrums simply because I can’t bear to throw them away. In my current weaving project I reuse my saved thrums.

A hand cutting down a warp from a loom.
Cutting down a warp is scary, especially if the yarn is your own handspun.

Thrums

I have always felt bad for the thrums left behind. Up until now I haven’t figured out what to do with them, but I haven’t been able to throw them away. I have just sighed and put them in a cupboard.

A couple of years ago I saw the prettiest chair pads made just like a rya rug – a woven square with gordian knots covering the whole surface. This was the perfect project for my thrums!

Rya chair pads

After having cut down my latest weaving project from the loom – and carefully saving the thrums – I started warping for my chair pads. We have eight kitchen chairs with the ugliest cotton pads with foam rubber filling. I am ashamed to say that they are at least fifteen years old and leaking out all their innards. So I warped for eight pads, that’s four meters of warp. I haven’t warped four meters before and I hope I am not in over my head.

A loom with a long warp. A warping peg holding the warp is attached to a balcony fence.
September is the perfect month for outdoor warping!

I am a beginner at weaving and I only have a rigid heddle loom. But it does what I want it to do and on a level that I understand. The sweet thing about being a beginner is that I don’t know what rules I’m breaking. Trial and error are my guides.

The warp yarns are also my handspun that have been lying in my stash for quite a while without a designated project.

Setup

The warp is a Shetland 2-ply from a fleece I bought a couple of years ago. The weft is, well, whatever I have really. And I have a lot of yarn just waiting to be useful. I do spin more than I use my handspun. The weft for the first chair pad is hand-combed and worsted spun Värmland wool.

I have left a 2 cm border on each side edge without knots and 4 cm between each pad. This way I can make a folded hem around the pad for sturdiness.

The knots are made mostly with my saved thrums. The first thrums are from another warp yarn – a hand-dyed jeans blue Swedish Leicester yarn spun worsted from hand-combed tops. I will also use old skeins of handspun that I haven’t found a use for. Probably lots of white and natural colour yarn. And I have the freedom to make stripes, patterns or whatever my heart desires.

Gordian knots

A knot of blue yarn around three brown warp threads
A sweet little gordian thrum knot.

This is how I make my Gordian knots for this project:

  • I make my knots over three warp threads, leaving one warp thread between each bundle of three.
  • I use a doubled piece of yarn (resulting a loop in one end of the knot).
  • After having lifted the three warp threads slightly I put the middle of the doubled yarn over the three threads, then under the outer warp threads and up in the middle.
  • I slide the knot down to the weave and pull it snug.
A hand pulling a knot in a warp.
Pulling the Gordian knot snug.

After the knot “shuttling” I make three regular shuttlings and repeat these four shuttlings. The knots in the second repeat are moved one warp thread to make a more harmonious pattern.

Rpws of blue Gordian knots in a brown weave
One row of knots and three regular shuttlings.

Helpful tools and techniques

To get the yarn ends for the Rya knots in equal lengths I use a wooden board around which I wrap the thrums in bundles. I cut the bundles at the edges of the board and get equal lengths.

To make it easier to pick each individual piece of yarn I bundle them together and tie the bundle on the middle. That way I can place the bundle on the weave and easily pick out individual yarn ends as I make the knots. I use a tapestry beater to beat the knots and the weft yarn tight.

A Rya weave in a loom. A wooden tool with sawed out teeth and a bundle of 12 cm yarn ends lie on top of the warp.
I’m out of the blue Leicester and continue with natural white Rya/Finull crossbred. A tapestry beater helps me keep the weft tight. Bundled yarn ends make it easier to pick out individual strands.

The weaving of a muppet

As I happily knot away I realize how much yarn I will need for my eight chair pads. I ran out of blue Leicester thrums after two thirds of the first pad and continued with white finewool/rya thrums. This will be a very effective stash buster project!

I also realize how much time this will take. Each four row repeat take around ten minutes to finish. I’ll be lucky if we can place our new year’s bottoms on these. But when we do, I expect I will want to sit on them all the time.

A table loom  with a rya weave on it. Sunrise over a lake in the background.
A loom with a view

I’m still very much of a beginner at weaving. But that doesn’t stop me from treasuring the moments I bring out my loom. The repetitions of the knotting and the shuttlings help me unwind and allow my thoughts to come and go. Feeling the very muppetness of the knots gives me such joy. I smile at the prospect of sitting on these pads. They actually look like real things! I think I’ll name this first one Groover.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me in several social media:

  • This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  • I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
    If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Slow

A friend of mine made a big personal change in her life recently. She had decided to listen to her heart and go back to the university for the third time after already having made a big career change once. Someone said to her that it was better to strive inwards than upwards. This sentence stuck to me and it floats around in my heart and reminds me softly every now and then to embrace the superpower of slow.

To get you in the mood for slow I give you a short and sweet video where I show you how I wind a ball of handspun yarn with my thumb.

Share the video and blog post if you like them!

The power of slow

Slow is for me a form of connection to the here and now. In society today, speed is power. There is a vast array of information rushing by every second. I need to sort things out in my brain and figure out what is important to me and what is just a waste of my time and energy.

With technological  speed I can reach more people in a shorter time, which is of course of importance in sharing my online work. I rely on this speed. But when we make shortcuts to cut costs and get more done faster, someone else will have to pay for it with their time, work and health. If I want to buy a sweater, somebody must do the work for me. And the cheaper the sweater, the more this someone has to pay. There is a big difference between price (what I pay for a sweater) and cost (what someone else has to pay for me to get a cheap sweater).

I can make my own sweater. Even if I will let someone else take care of the whole sheep part, I usually do know the sheep owner. Once I get my hands on a fleece, I can do all the steps and end up with a sweater. And the process will definitely be slow. If you are a spinner or any other kind of crafter you know this. I have made two videos with the concept of slow in mind: Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater and Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl.

Josefin Waltin spinning on a supporter spindle and wearing a sweater with spinning wheels
A sweater knitted with my handspun yarn. The sweater has the leading role in my video Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater

I have paid for my sweater with my own time, experience, skills and design. By dedicating all this time to the process of making, I will gain so much more than just a sweater.

The power of thought

Being creative allows you to entertain the creative side of your brain.  When I spin (or do any kind of craft that I am fairly comfortable with) I also open up the door to creative thinking. Creative making in this sense allows for creative thinking. I can take advantage of this. If I feel a bit dull minded I go to my spinning tool of the day and spin. After a while I enter the crafting bubble. This state of being in the making sends a signal to my synapses to open all the doors to creative thinking. My dull mind becomes sharp and I can solve a problem or give birth to a new baby idea to take care of.

Josefin Waltin spelning on a supported spindle
Creative making and creative thinking

It is like being creative takes me to a place where I can find balance between focus on the process and unrestrained thinking – the crafting flow. It is very much like meditation. I have the same feeling in my body after crafting as I do after meditation – I feel light, empowered and balanced.

The power of touch

When I get my hands on a fleece I get to know it. Through all the steps in the process from fleece to garment every single fiber has gone through my hands numerous times. My hands tune in the channel of the superpowers of this particular fleece. They know the staple length, they know how the crimp behaves, how it drafts and how the yarn should feel when it is just right. My hands enter their own crafting bubble and after a while they just know how to prepare the wool to make the finished yarn show off all the superpowers of the fleece.

Hands feeling a fleece
The power of touch

My hands become an extension of my brain – like antennae – and allow my mind to read and interpret the material I work with.

Respect

Crafting is a sustainable way to use natural materials instead of buying new stuff. You may have heard of the “3 R’s” of waste management – reduce, reuse and recycle. Crafting is a part of this. You reduce the waste by using natural materials, you reuse the material instead of throwing away old stuff and buy new and you recycle by mending broken things.

I would like to add respect to this trio. By getting to know the material I work with I gain a sense of respect for it. I learn about the superpowers of this particular material and what it can give me. In return I handle the material with care and respect and highlight its superpowers in the things I create. You can compare it to gardening. The soil gives nourishment to my crops and I need to give something back to the soil when I harvest to be able to harvest again. By using the natural material to the best of its potential and all that it gives me I respect it.

Recently I have embroidered a lot. There is a slow process for you! But as all crafting it puts me in the crafting bubble and I am in my hands again, happy as a clam. Suddenly I want to save all the abandoned linen floss and embroidery silk in every flea market in all the land and make pretty patterns to save the world.

An embroidery, linen on wool
Slow fireworks embroidered with linen floss found – and saved – at a flea market.

Winding a ball of yarn

The faster things roll in society, the more important slow becomes. By making things slow I make an effort to balancing all the speed around me and hopefully getting some peace of mind in the process. It can be as simple as winding a ball of yarn.

Thumb nostepinne

I do own a ball winder and I use it sometimes. But I prefer using my thumb. Recently all my skeins have turned into pretty thumb wound balls of yarn. It gives me even more time to feel the fiber and once again pay tribute to its superpowers and all that it has given me.

Winding a ball of yarn with your thumb as a nostepinne is slow. Slower than using a nostepinne and definitely slower than a ball winder. But it gives me more time to hang out with the yarn that I have put so much skill, love and care into. I get time to watch the yarn in all its glory and remember the process of making it. And what is another fifteen minutes spent on a ball of yarn that has already taken me hours upon hours to process and spin? I like to think that I owe it to the yarn to spend that extra time and care to make it shine.

The technique

The technique is basically the same as for winding with a nostepinne, but instead of turning the nostepinne you will turn the ball on your thumb.

If you happen to be right-handed, you have the opportunity to learn how to wind with your left hand. You can also translate the image to right-handed in your head. The description in the titles is made to work with any hand. This is how I do it:

  • If I work from a skein I put it over my knees or the arm rest of my chair and wind from there.
  • I hold the yarn end in my hand and wind the yarn very loosely around my thumb. You don’t want to stop the blood flow in your thumb and you do want to be able to turn the ball with ease.
  • I wind diagonally from lower outside of the thumb to the upper inside.
  • For every round I place the strand of yarn closer to the inside of the thumb.
  • After a while I can wind a little less loosely.
  • When the front is full I turn the ball outwards. This way I can keep placing the strand of yarn towards the inside of the thumb again. This is where I would turn the nostepinne if I were using one.

I shot the video on Christmas Day. I generally don’t make outdoor spinning videos in the winter since the lanolin solidifies in the cold. But for winding yarn I don’t need to draft.

A hand wound ball of handspun yarn. A winter city in the background
Let your yarn shine!

The setting is our terrace overlooking Stockholm. In the background you can see Essingeleden, the largest traffic route in Sweden, which is anything but slow.

The yarn I wind in the video is the yarn I spin in my English longdraw video. The mittens featured in the video were knit with my handspun Shetland and Jämtland yarn and I used the pattern Stevenson Gauntlets by Kate Davies.

If you are not already there, try to embrace the rhythm of slow and strive inwards.

Happy ball winding!


You can follow me on 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!
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

2018 in retrospect

A Navajo spindle. Photo by Dan Waltin

In the last few days of the year I get a little nostalgic. I browse through the months, looking at all the memories of blogging and youtubing. They are like sparkling candy in a pretty bowl. All different, all sweet and all part of the whole. In this post I look back at 2018 and forward to 2019. Here is 2018 in retrospect!

If you have been following me for a while, this might be a walk down memory lane for you too. If you are new to the blog – welcome – this post  will help you can catch up with what happened during 2018.

The stats

During 2018 I have published

  • 66 blog posts
  • 17 public youtube videos
  • 20 blog post specific videos.

That’s more than one post a week and one one video every three weeks. At the end of the summer I decided I wanted to aim at one post a week during the autumn, but I didn’t realize that I had made even more than that in the spring.

Blog statistics
The stats

I am very proud of the videos and posts I have published this year. I learn new things all the time and I have sharpened my articles and learned how to analyze and reflect to produce interesting content for you. If you have enjoyed my posts and videos during 2018 and look forward to 2019, do become a patron and support my work. This work takes up a lot of my time and I also need to finance editing software and video equipment.

I love writing the posts and making the videos. When I get home on Friday after a week of work I can’t wait for Saturday morning to publish my next post.

During the year I had most viewers in the U.S, followed by Sweden, U.K. Canada and Germany. Thank you all for following, commenting, asking questions and giving valuable feedback. You help me become a better spinner, blogger, youtuber and teacher and I couldn’t do it without you.

Popular posts

The post with the single most views was, quite surprisingly, Willowing wool. I hadn’t planned it at all, I just thought of it one morning, grabbed a fleece and a couple of sticks and started shooting. And over 2500 people have visited the post and even more people have watched the video. It was great fun to make the video and I am happy to have contributed to sharing this old technique and craft.

Josefin Waltin sitting with a pile of wool. Locks are flying in the air around her.
Wool is in the air!

The second most viewed post was, even more surprisingly, Don’t waste your wool waste. This post didn’t even have a video attached to it, which makes it even more puzzling. But it was obviously interesting to both the spinning and the gardening community.

Third in line was Spinning in the 14th century and one of my favourite videos this year. I had such a great time with Maria, who provided the costumes and helped me with the shooting. There is a big difference in quality of the video when I have company (My daughter was with me in parts of the willowing video, which is also a favourite) compared to when I do it all myself. You can see and feel the interplay in the video which gives it different dimension than my solo videos. I hope to make more videos like that during 2019.

Josefin Waltin in medieval costume
Preparing for 14th century video shoot. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Blog series

During 2018 I have made four blog series where I have focused on a theme and looked at it from different perspectives:

They have been very popular and I have loved the opportunity to dig deep in a given topic. I have learned a lot from all four of them, but one of them in particular has totally changed the way I look at – and teach – spinning.

Spinning direction

The series about spinning direction started with an injury. I had started to practice spinning with in-hand spindles where you twiddle the spindle in your hand, basically without letting go of the spindle. A short while after I had started practicing this technique, I got  a cramp in the base of my thumb and I wanted to find out why.

I talked to a vocational therapist who told me that the muscles used for pulling are twice as many as the muscles used for pushing. Being a leftie, I had been pushing the spindle for a clockwise spin. When I changed hands so that the right hand was pulling the spindle for a clockwise spin, there was no more cramp.

A hand holding a spindle
Which is your spinning hand?

This made a huge impact on my own spinning and my teaching. I taught myself to spin with my right hand as spinning hand. It was difficult in the beginning, but with practice I managed to become as skilled with my right hand as I was with my left hand.

Now I teach spinning direction in spindle spinning in all my classes – I encourage them all to learn how to use both of their hands as spinning hands. I want them to have the opportunity to spin and ply with both hands without injuries.  Both my students and I are much more aware now of how the hands move and work.

The blog series was a combination of my own reflections about spinning direction, interviews with professionals in physiology and textile history and poll results from the spinning community. It was read and appreciated by many followers. Long after the series was published I have referred spinners to it who have had questions about pain or cramp in their spinning hand when spinning on spindles. And I am happy to help.

Twined knitting mittens

The blog series about twined knitting mittens was born out of the previous blog series about spinning direction. In the series you are invited to follow me on my path from fleece to a finished pair of mittens.

After having started practicing spinning with my right hand as spinning hand I wanted to give something back to my left hand that had been struggling for so long with pushing the spindle. I wanted to spin a yarn counter-clockwise so that my left hand could pull the spindle.

There is an old Swedish technique called twined knitting. You use two strands of yarn and twine them on the wrong side of the fabric. The technique takes very long to knit, but it results in  a fabric that is very dense and warm.

Close-up of the wrong side of a twined knitted mitten.
The two yarn ends are twined on wrong side of the fabric.

To compensate for the twining, you use a yarn that is Z-plied: Spun counter-clockwise and plied clockwise. So I spun a beautiful Värmland wool on a supported spindle counter-clockwise with my left hand as spinning hand. When the yarn was finished I made a pair of mittens in twined knitting. They weigh 60 g each and my heart sings every time I wear them.

A grey mitten with a venus symbol
Twined knitting mittens. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Flax

The autumn started with a series of processing and spinning flax. I have a tiny experimental flax patch at home. I started it in 2014 and learn new things about flax processing every year. The series includes a video where I process my flax from the 2017 harvest. I went to Skansen outdoor museum and borrowed their flax processing tools and got a lot of help from the friendly staff. The 2017 harvest was the first one I felt I can actually spin with ( I haven’t yet, though). In the series I also invite the viewer to follow the retting process on my lawn, with pictures of the flax straws in different stages of the process.

Retted flax
The flax fiber is easy to pull off the cellulose core. The retting is finished!

 

Cotton

The cotton blog series started with a gift. A fellow spinner gave me 130 g of newly harvested cotton from Stockholm. I am very reluctant to buying cotton clothes because of climate reasons – the fashion industry takes up a lot of farming ground for cotton farming. The industry also uses a lot of pesticides that are harmful for biodiversity and the people working in the business. But with small-scale and locally grown cotton I had the opportunity to try a fiber that I hadn’t spun before! In the series I prepare the cotton and spin it with Tahkli, Navajo and Akha spindles.

New grounds

During the year I have investigated grounds that were new to me. It has been a truly wonderful journey, but also required a lot of energy. In the end, I am very proud of what I have achieved.

Patron launch

In February I launched my Patreon site. This is where followers have the opportunity to support my work and get extra Patreon-only benefits like previews of upcoming videos, Q&A:s and their names in the credits of my videos.

Article in Spin-off

Last June I submitted a proposal to Spin-off magazine. It was accepted, and in March it was published. The link goes to a shorter version of the article. If you want to read the whole article you need to buy the magazine. I wrote about the process of the making of the video Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl (the video was published in August 2017), where I processed and spun yarn for a shawl that I wove on my rigid heddle loom.

I will be writing more articles for spinning magazines.

Business

Around the same time, I started my own business. It feels very grown-up and totally terrifying, but it also gives me a boost to ignite my entrepreneurial switch and acknowledge my work as something more than just a hobby.

Josefin Waltin wearing an apron with an embroidered sheep
My wool handling apron with sheep logo. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Teaching

2018 has been the year of teaching for me. I have been teaching supported spindle spinning in different parts of Sweden during the year. Every time I learn something new about teaching, spinning and analyzing, but most of all I have learned to see and listen what the students need and how they are most likely to understand and learn. There is a big difference between conveying a message and for the receiver to actually understand and make use of it. I’m still learning and I jump with joy every time I see a student make progress.

Online school

I have been planning and working with my online school for nearly a year now, and in December I finally launched it. The first course is a free course in How to pick a supported spindle and bowl. Over 120 people have already taken the course. Come to the school and take the course you too!

A spindle and puck
Supported spindle and bowl by Björn Peck.

I have received a lot of wonderful feedback. Many students have really enjoyed and appreciated the course and given me valuable suggestions for future courses. I am truly thankful for that, it helps me become a better teacher and course creator.

There will be more online courses in 2019!

Favourites

One of my personal favourite videos in 2018 was the one I shot in Austria about plying on the fly on a Turkish spindle. I had such a lovely time standing in the big meadow in the beautiful morning light. And a lot of you enjoyed the video as well.

A hand starting a spindle.
Plying on the fly on a Turkish spindle in Salzkammergut, Austria.

Another favourite, with some shots from Austria, was my craftivism project I choose to stay on the ground. It is a video and a theme that is very important to me: Reducing our carbon footprint by avoiding flying.

Josefin Waltin reading a book on a train
Image from I choose to stay on the ground

A third favourite was the supported spindle video A meditation that I shot by a fulling mill. A beautiful day with pale September light.

You

Even if I have published lots of videos and posts this year I couldn’t have done it without you, my followers and readers. The feedback, inspiration and love I get from you is invaluable. Keep commenting, asking questions and sharing your knowledge. It helps me make better content for you. You are my biggest inspiration!

Plans for 2019

As I write this, it is still winter, which means that I can’t shoot any videos outside. Well, I could, but not with spinning involved, my hands and the fiber won’t work in the cold. I will have to wait until spring to shoot new videos. But I do have a few unedited videos left from 2018, I will publish them until the weather permits new outdoor videos.

I will launch more online courses during the year. Hopefully I will be able to buy a better microphone, so that I can improve the audio quality in upcoming online courses. I will also offer in-person courses around Sweden, perhaps I will see you there.

Björn the wood turner and I talk regularly and we will have a workshop in his workshop (!) in January to look at new models and designs. He will open a web shop soon.

I create my videos out of a special idea I get or if I find a special location I fall in love with. I have a few plans up my sleeve, involving spindles of different kinds. My husband gave me a lightweight tripod for Christmas, so I will be able to get out and about easier. The old one weighs over 2 kg, this one was only 800 g.

If there is anything you would like me to cover in an upcoming post or video, do give me a holler.

These are some of my favorite sweets in the 2018 candy bowl. I hope you found some favourite sweets as well.

With all my heart I thank you for 2018 and wish you a happy new spinning year 2019!

Josefin Waltin spinning on a supported spindle. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Looking forward to spinning in 2019!


You can follow me on 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!
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Cotton blog series

A hand holding a boll of cotton

I’m starting a cotton blog series. There will be upcoming posts with cotton preparation and spinning, but in this first post I want to air my thoughts about this fiber.

Fast fashion

I try not to buy cotton clothes. If you have seen my videos Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater and Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl you probably realize that I try to live a sustainable life. I have also tried to show this in my latest documentary video I choose to stay on the ground.

Cotton farming is to a large extent governed by the fashion industry. Anyone who has been in a fashion store realizes that the range of clothes is changed at least four times every year. A large part of these clothes are made of cotton. Therefore, cotton takes up an enormous part of the farmland in the world, land that could have been used for food production. Cotton farming also uses vast amounts of water and pesticides. This in turn affects the nearby flora and fauna and, of course, the people working on the farm. Even if there is organic cotton available, it is still grown as a monoculture which will have consequences for the biodiversity in the area.

Spinning cotton

I have never spun cotton before. Cotton farming depends on a warm climate and I doubt that any of the cotton that is sold to spinners has been farmed in Europe, let alone here in Sweden. Buying cotton from another continent and having it flown back to Sweden just for my pleasure has not appealed to me.

Last year I tried growing my own cotton plants. It all went very well at the beginning. I cultivated five plants indoors and placed them outdoors by midsummer when there was no more risk of night frost. I was delighted to see the pretty flowers and I waited eagerly for the magic to happen in the bolls. However, last summer was a cold and wet one. All the bolls fell off, and one by one the plants died. I didn’t try again this year.

A white and pink cotton flower
A cotton flower from my own plant in 2017

This blog series could have ended here.

Instead, this is where it starts.

Just a couple of weeks ago I received a bag of cotton from a fellow spinner. The cotton had been cultivated right here in Stockholm! She told me that I could share the cotton with fellow spinners. I didn’t. Instead I will share my thoughts and reflections of preparing and spinning locally cultivated cotton.

A pile of cotton bolls
Locally cultivated cotton.

So, with all this said, let the cotton blog series begin! In upcoming posts I will publish videos and show you how I prepare cotton for spinning and three different ways to spin cotton.

Spoiler alert: One of the videos will contain a guest starring cat!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

At the flea market

As many of you know, I live in Stockholm. There are lots of antique stores, but no good flea markets. By good I mean flea markets where I can find textiles and textile tools. These kind of flea markets do exist, you just need to go to the countryside to find them. For the last five years we have rented a cabin at a sheep farm in the beginning of August. Not far from the farm there is a three storey flea market in an old spinning mill. Couldn’t be better.

The market is open every Sunday all year round. Of course we made a day of it! So far I am disappointed in the range of textile tools, but there is one table at the flea market I can spend the whole day at.

The textile table

The sellers keep their table for as long as they rent them, so I know exactly where to go. My first stop is always the textile table. A woman collects textiles from around the countryside, not seldom from estates. Picture an old lady who once cherished her linen closet and filled it with hand woven gems. Picture the next generation unaware of the treasure hidden behind a squeaky cabinet door. The local super heroine, the Textile Lady, comes to the rescue and saves all the textiles from oblivion.

A table full of folded textiles.
The textile table at the flea market. Filled with old textiles that someone has cherished, another thrown away and a third has saved from extinction.

The table is filled with sheets, towels, table cloths and lots of haberdashery (oh, how I love this word!). Bobbin lace, name bands, needles and every colour of buttons you can imagine.

Hooks, pins and sewing thread.
Flea market treasures – hooks, pins and sewing thread.

The old packages are just exquisite. The pin box above right says “First class brass pins, solid heads”. Isn’t it to die for?

Boxes of lace and name bands.
Lace and name bands for every occasion.

I stayed for a long while at the lace box, just taking in all the lace beauty and the  hours upon hours of (women’s) work invested in them.

I bought three embroidery hoops from the haberdashery corner (I just had to write this sweet word again!). The two bigger ones look like most embroidery hoops I have seen (see also featured image). But the smallest one is just so exquisitely made! The locking mechanism seems different and the inner hoop has a band meticulously wrapped around it. When I look at the label and the logo I’m thinking the 1020’s.

Save the sheets!

My heart aches for all the sheets, towels and table cloths at the flea market and I want to rescue them all. I can’t, but we always end up buying more than we intended to. There is a lot of women’s history in these textiles, but also a story of industrialism and contemporary consumption patterns.

When my parents got married in 1965 they got lots of household textiles for their new home – sheets, kitchen towels, table cloths etc. They still sleep on those sheets and dry their hands on those linen towels. If I should buy new sheets today, they would be threadbare in under a year. The pressure to buy more and new clothes every turn of the season has led to a pressure on the cotton industry. The cotton fibers are shorter to make way for more harvests. The yarn is more loosely spun and the sheets are woven at a wider sett to save fiber.

We bought four old sheets at the market. Last year we bought six. These are wonderfully thick and strong, some of them hand woven. They will probably last longer than a lifetime.

Four folded sheets with lace borders
Old sheets, a treasure

Look at the sheet below with the beautiful monogram. This sheet was made with love and pride. Probably also various amounts of blood, sweat and tears. However, the loom was too narrow to weave a whole sheet’s width. Thus, the sheet was woven in two lengths and joined in the middle. If you look closely, you can see a very fine seam between the letters in the monogram and above the crocheted lace. Just look at that join! Imagine the hours it took to sew it in bad lighting and sore eyes in a tiny country cottage. I sleep on these sheets with joy and the knowledge that someone has put their skill, love and hours and hours of work into my sleep comfort.

A sheet with a lace border and monogram. A tiny seam between the letters.
Can you see the join of the two sheet halves?

The sheets cost €4 each.

Upcycling

While the Textile Lady has heroically saved the textiles, we bought the workings of another textile heroine. Someone had bought four hand woven fancy kitchen towels and joined them together with a crocheted lace ribbon. Such a smart and thrifty way to upcycle old textiles.

A table cloth made of four kitchen towels joined together with lace ribbons
Kitchen towels made into a table cloth

In my textile rescuing frenzy, I bought five hand woven kitchen towels. Some of them were beautifully monogrammed.

Five white towels, two monogrammed in red
Handwoven kitchen towels

I put them away in the linen cabinet, but the other day I took them out again. My plan was to sew drawstring spindle bags. When I looked closer at them, I saw that they were woven in twill with a linen warp and cotton weft.

Close-up of a white twill textile
Twill towels in linen warp and cotton weft.

If you look closely, you can see it. The horizontal weft is matte while the vertical warp is shiny. I pulled out a warp thread and my theory was confirmed – long and shiny fibers. And then I realized that the linen thread was most likely handspun. You can see in the close-up above that the thread is not industrially even. You can also see some remaining cellulose from the flax processing.

I bought the five towels for €15. Talk about unappreciated women’s labour. Now, however, they are greatly appreciated, by me. And I have turned them into beautiful drawstring bags, ready to host spindles and new yarn for future textiles. The circle is complete.

Enamel necessities

The last thing we bought was an enamel washbasin. Actually, it was my husband who found it. ” I figured you would need this to wash yarn in!”. Indeed I did. This is a very typical kitchen utensil from the beginning of the last century by Kockums enamelware.  They were very popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s but they stopped making them in the 1960’s. I have bought several Kockums utensils from Swedish e-bay – colanders, 5 and 10 deciliter measures and funnels. My favorites are the milk fetcher and the cream fetcher. The fetchers are lidded buckets to fetch the milk (2 l) and cream (5 dl) from the milk store in. We use the milk fetcher for compost and the cream fetcher for tea.

Anyway, the washbasin is doing its job very well and when I don’t use it for soaking yarn in it is the proud home of my cards and combs. We also bought a potty for my husband’s niece who was born two months ago.

A washbasin and potty in enameled tin
Enamel basin for various handspun related purposes

What about the textile tools?

Well, I looked for textile tools and found none. You might expect the odd scutching knife, flax hackle or weasel, but nothing. A couple of modern umbrella swifts and a the ugliest sewing table you have ever seen. Well, we’ll come again next year. Maybe we will save some more textiles or spot a whole range of flax processing tools, who knows!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

I choose to stay on the ground

Josefin Waltin spinning on a chair on a meadow. Text says I choose to stay on the ground

This is not a spinning video. Rather,  is a craftivism project about climate change. In the video I use spinning as a means to reflect over climate change and my own carbon footprint. This is I choose to stay on the ground.

Reduce, reuse recycle and respect

I try to live my life in a way that is as resourceful as possible. Reduce, reuse, recycle and respect are words that influence everything I do. Bike riding, car pooling, growing our own vegetables, eating less meat, cutting down on plastic etc. These are all things that have become a way of living. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice and I wouldn’t want to go back to the way we lived our lives before.

My husband and I have also decided not to fly. We take the train to visit my family in Austria. Choosing to stay on the ground is an important step we have taken to reduce our family’s carbon footprint.

Spinning and climate change?

Where does spinning fit in and what does it have to do with climate change, you may ask. Well, there are several ways I find that spinning plays a part in my effort to reduce my carbon emissions. First of all, making garments and textiles from wool that I have bought locally and spun myself is an important part of reducing my carbon footprint. This is an important part of my videos, especially the documentary videos like Slow fashion and Slow fashion 2. Spinning your own yarn is in itself sustainable, especially when you use (local) wool that is such a versatile material.

Secondly,  the act of spinning also generates feelings of love, mindfulness and kindness. I try to express this in last year’s documentary video For the love of spinning. I like to think that I spread these feelings in my videos. I get lots of comments from my followers about how the videos have helped them find peace and a sense of grounding.

Thirdly, spinning – or any other craft – lets me reflect on a deeper level over what I do and what I experience while I am crafting. These reflections in turn influence what I do and the decisions I make. To remind me of these reflections I have the yarn, with all the gentle thoughts spun right into it.

A craftivist approach

I’m not telling you all this to be a miss goody two-shoes. Climate change is too important to me to care about the appearance of things. The climate can’t wait, we have to make drastic changes in our daily lives, now.

I choose to stay on the ground combines my concern for climate change with the power of spinning, or crafting in general. I have been investigating craftivism and read an excellent book, How to be a craftivist: The art of gentle protest, by Sarah Corbett. The book is a kind of manifesto for a kind of activism that is beautiful, kind and fair in a world we want to make just that – beautiful, kind and fair.

Josefin Waltin reading a book, How to be a craftiest by Sarah Corbett
Reading up on craftivism on the train through Denmark

I do have quite a large group of followers and I’m taking advantage of that when I’m releasing his video. This means that I use you all for spreading a video that has an urgent message.

A call to action

The video is divided into two parts. The first part is my own experience from a three day train journey through Europe to visit family in Austria. I spin and reflect over climate change and why I choose to stay on the ground. The second part is a call to action. I invite you, the viewer, to take part in this craftivist project. I have chosen five questions about climate change that I would like you to reflect over while you craft in public transportation. I also ask you to share your thoughts (and the video!) under the hashtag #crafterthoughts and #ichoosetostayontheground.

Making the video

The scene is a three day train journey from Stockholm, Sweden to Salzburg, Austria. I shot about 150 small clips from the train and narrowed them down to  fit in a five minute video.

Josefin Waltin spinning on a city square.
Evening spin in Copenhagen, Denmark

The train ride obviously took a lot of time. Frustrating sometimes, yes, but mostly surprisingly pleasant. We sat together for three days, talking, playing games, reading, napping. Some of us were spinning. Just being in each other’s presence brought us closer together on both physical and mental levels. It felt so good to just be together.

There are no actual shots of my husband and children in the video, but if you look closely, you can see clues of their participation. In the beginning for example you can see them on the station with our suitcases. Also, you can see them on a hiking trip when we have arrived in Austria. And, of course, Dan has helped me with some of the video shooting.

Tools I use in the video:

With that said, go and share that video. And happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Save the thrums!

A skein of dark grey yarn with knots on it

I have participated in another competition. It is the same as I participated in at a wool fair last year. The competition is called ‘Spin your prettiest yarn’ and the challenge is to spin any kind of yarn from Swedish wool, and ad something recycled. Last year I came in second with my pigtail yarn The sheep, the chicken, the pig and the lion, where the recycled material was chicken feathers. In the 2018 competition, I want to save the thrums. I didn’t win anything, but I had a great time spinning the yarn.

Save the thrums!

In this year’s competition my recycled material is weaving thrums. At least I think that’s what they are called. I’m talking about the last piece of the warp when you cut the weave off the loom. When you cut, there are warp threads left tied to the warp beam that are too short to do anything with. They have a special name in Swedish – effsingar, also meaning something that is cut off (I’ve never heard it being used that way, though). When I have finished a weave on my rigid heddle loom and cut it off, the thrums are about 40 cm long. My heart cries when I cut these handspun pieces of magic off and just leave them (I have never been able to throw them away). But for this project, they will bring some bling to my prettiest yarn.

Making the yarn

I used a beautiful grey fleece of a finewool/rya mix that I had combed. I spun the yarn on a supported spindle and chain plied it in sections, a method called ply on the fly. But before I let the twist into the loop, I inserted  a two inch piece of thrum in the loop. The thrums came from my first and second pillow cases and a blanket.

Plying on the fly on a supported spindle is a focus-demanding business. I actually feel a bit like a spider, handling the spindle, three strands of yarn and the butterflied yarn supply. Ad to that a gazillion 2-inch pieces of thrums to fiddle into the loop of the chain ply and you may agree with me.

Close-up of a person plying on a supported spindle.
Plying on the fly takes focus.

The yarn had to weigh at least 50 grams, so I had to spin 50 grams on one single spindle. It worked, but it was quite tough the last 10 grams.

A spindle full of dark grey yarn.
50 g of yarn on a 23 g spindle (Malcolm Fielding).

After I had finished the spinning, I made a simple knot on each thrum. At this stage, a lot of them wiggled their way out of the loop. I started making knots  at the tie end of the skein and followed the yarn all the way through the skein. I came up with this method after I had shot the clip for the video. Since I had basically the same loop length on every loop, I could easily find where a thrum was missing this way. The knots were a bit slippery since the thrums were naturally warp-straight.

After washing the yarn the knots were a bit more friendly towards their destiny as knots and stayed where I had put them.

A skein of dark grey yarn. It has little coloured knots on it and blue flowers.
A finished yarn with saved thrums

FYI: Strong fibers spun and plied on the fly can generate a mean paper cut.

A knitted swatch of dark grey yarn with coloured knots in it.
Save the thrums swatch.

Happy spinning!