This week a nine year old picture of a bag of Swedish finewool popped up in my Facebook feed. The picture showed of my very first fleece on my very first spinning lesson. It was also the very first time I ever held a spindle in my hand. A lot has happened since then. In this post I walk you through some of the highlights from this journey.
My friend Anna is my husband’s colleague. At an office get-together Anna and I talked about knitting. She mentioned that an acquaintance of hers had sheep but didn’t know what to do with the wool. The acquaintance also said that a large amount of Swedish wool was wasted (I think the number at the time was around 80 per cent), or even burnt. This was shocking to me and I looked up an evening spinning class that Anna and I signed up for.
A ram and his lamb
Meanwhile there was a Swedish finewool ram called Muffe. He fathered many lambs, one of which was called Pia-Lotta. For some reason kids were bullying Muffe. He got very stressed and had to be put to sleep for this reason. Muffe had been very loved by his Shepherdess Ulla.
Ulla had not planned to keep the lamb Pia-Lotta. But when Ulla saw Pia-Lotta on her way to the truck that was going to the butcher’s she saw so much of Muffe in Pia-Lotta that she couldn’t bare losing her too. Pia-Lotta got to stay on the farm.
It was at the farm where Pia-Lotta lived that the spinning course took place every other Tuesday evening and it was Pia-Lotta’s fleece that ended up in my bags on that first spinning lesson. After that I have got two more of her fleeces, one of which I shore myself.
The journey of a fleece
I got very fascinated by the journey the fleece made from newly shorn to a finished textile. Since the world of wool and this process was all new to me I was totally smitten by it. I wanted to tell the world what a beautiful thing spinning and the process from fluff to stuff was. So I did. I made a video that became a two year project. During that time I shot the whole process from the newly shorn sheep (Pia-Lotta) to a finished sweater where I showed all the steps – sorting, washing, teasing, carding/combing, spinning, knitting and assembling. I called the video Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater.
The sweater that was the product of the project is one of my favourites. It has a lot of flaws that I have learned from and I know so much more now. But it was at the same time so much better than the first skeins I spun from the very same wool (the white yarn in the sweater comes from Pia-Lotta).
A learning journey
We all learn every second. New experiences come to us all through the course of our lives. We build on that experience and develop our skills. Just as every single one of you I started from the beginning. In fact, I start from the beginning every day.
Every time I pick up a spinning project – new or old – I start from the beginning of that particular day. When the day is over I have learned new things that I bring to tomorrow’s beginning. And it goes on. I still make mistakes, only different ones than nine years ago. And I still learn from them and look upon them as a map of what I have learned.
By the way, I write this particular paragraph in the morning. I would never have thought something this clever in the evening. Just saying.
Slow fashion became the real boost of my then newborn youtube channel. The video is still one of my most popular ones with over 17000 views. When I look at it my heart tingles. It tingles from how much the video means to me and from all I see that I have learned since then. I have learned about shooting, angles, locations, light, sound, editing and, of course, spinning and wool preparation. But it all started there, with that idea of sharing the process of the wool and what it did for me with the world.
A journey on a train
I started spinning on a supported spindle because my family’s decision to stop flying gave me a long train journey to my father’s family in Austria. I wanted a craft that I could dive in to on those hours gliding through the landscape. So I practiced supported spinning daily from November until we got on the train in July. That moment when I finally placed the spinning bowl in my lap and started spinning was magical. My then ten year old son helped me shoot a short video somewhere in Denmark.
A teaching journey
That train journey became the starting point of teaching for me. Spinners in Sweden were fascinated with the technique and soon someone asked me to teach supported spinning. I can’t resist flattery, so I did it, knowing nothing at all about teaching. Now, several teaching hours later, teaching spinning is one of my favourite things to do in the world. Finding a student’s learning style and watching someone understand, learn and love a technique is pure joy. Through teaching spinning I learn more than through any other means. So thank you all past, present and future students for teaching me how to be a better teacher, student and spinner.
A few courses have been cancelled during the pandemic, but in a couple of weeks I will teach a weekend course again and I can’t wait. There are still spots left in a course in floor supported Navajo style spindle spinning in Stockholm on November 7–8 and of course you can check out my online school. One of my favorite right now is the five day challenge Fleece through the senses. I have learned a lot through all your stories there.
An inner journey
I am still smitten by the journey the fleece makes from fluff to stuff, but today that infatuation has grown into a more mature kind of love.
The most important part of my spinning journey has been the inner journey. Spinning has taught me to appreciate the wool I see before me. I just need to find the superpowers of that particular fleece and make them shine. I have learned to be thankful to the wool I work with and for being able to work with wool.
Working with wool is my safe space. It is a place where I can relax, find focus and balance. The world is always beautiful when I work with wool. If it is not, the wool will get me to that place of beauty soon enough.
When I spin the doors to creativity open and I see and understand things that have been blurred before. The feeling of the wool in my hands, the rhythm of the wheel or spindle, the repetitive motions of the drafting. It is a place where I find the space between my thoughts and relax in the here and now. And I thank wool for that.
/Josefin, spinning student and teacher
You can find me in several social media:
- This blog is my main channel. This is where I write posts about spinning, but also where I explain a bit more about videos I release. Sometimes I make videos that are on the blog only. Subscribe or make an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
- My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
- I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
- I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
- On Patreon you can get early access to new videos and other Patreon only benefits. The contributions from my patrons is an important way to cover the costs, time and energy I put into the videos and blog posts I create. Shooting and editing a 3 minute video takes about 5 hours. Writing a blog post around 3. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
- Follow me on Instagram. I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
- In all the social media I offer, you are more than welcome to contact me. Interacting with you helps me make better content. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
- I support Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, a group of talented textile artists in Cusco, Peru who dedicate their work to the empowerment of weavers through the revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. Please consider supporting their work by donating to their causes.