Weaving bands

In my current stashbusting frenzy I have been weaving bands with a simple rigid heddle and a backstrap weaving method. I warped for my first band just before the new year and couldn’t stop – I wove five bands and came to love the technique.

Stashbusting

I have reached a point where my handspun stash stresses me. It clutters my mind and I want to make good use of all the time, love and effort I have put into those precious skeins. Just before the holidays I used up one kilo of my handspun skeins and saved thrums in woven chair pads. When I had finished them I decided to explore band weaving.

I have failed weaving bands before. I have four started tablet weavings that I never finished (not my handspun, though). But why would it be different this time? Well, I think I have more of a clear purpose of destashing and using the bands.

This summer I bought a small rigid heddle for weaving bands and I have been curious about it ever since. It turned out to be a really nice technique that quite quickly transforms a shapeless bundle of yarn into a strong and dense band. One 50 gram skein is enough for a decent length band. I found some smaller skeins too, which I paired up with other smaller skeins and wove striped bands.

A small skein can become a striped a band together with another small skein. This is Klövsjö wool that I paired with a skein of silvery Gotland wool.

Weaving bands with a rigid heddle

Weaving bands with a rigid heddle and the backstrap method is easy. The result is a tight warp-faced band with many uses. Apart from the rigid heddle and the yarn you just need a pole/tree/something else to secure the end in, a shuttle, a clamp of some sort and your own body. You also need a warp or two clamped pegs to warp the yarn. You can of course warp the yarn between two chairs turned upside down.

We have a very practical pole in our house, perfect for weaving bands. I tie the warp braid around the pole and keep a leather belt around the pole for quick fastening in the other end (me).

This is how I did it:

  • I warped the yarn between two pegs that I clamped on two tables. The tables were 2–3 meters apart.
  • I transfered the warped threads to the slots of the rigid heddle and threaded the holes.
  • Once the warp was evenly tensioned I tied one end to a pole in the living room and the other end to a belt around my waist, secured with a small clamp.
  • When weaving, I opened the shed, entered the shuttle and gave the weave a good beating with the shuttle between the warp threads. Before I pulled it through I pulled the old shuttling tight.
  • After having pulled the shuttle through I pulled the new shuttling tight.

The bands

In the course of two weeks I have been weaving five bands from odd handspun skeins. It was so rewarding and in some cases also a very quick weave.

My five new bands made of stashed handspun yarns. The history of the spinning and the projects the yarns were spun for is woven into the bands.

Curtain band

My first band was a simple one-colour band. The warp was smooth and easy to weave and it didn’t fight me. It took me a while to understand how narrow I should keep the band and how I should keep it even in width, but after I had figured that out it went fairly quickly.

An all-Shetland band. Both warp and weft were spun and plied on the fly on a supported spindle. 2,2×247 cm, 39 g.

I will use this band together with a curtain I have in my rigid heddle loom. The curtain is a loose weave in dark grey and natural white and I think it will go very nicely together with the band.

Gotland meets Klövsjö

Just before the holidays I spun some black and silvery Swedish Klövsjö locks for my friend Sara who is writing a book about knitting in Sweden. I didn’t give her the whole skein, though. I saved part of the skein and used it in this band. The silver grey yarn is Gotland wool from the lamb Sounnie. The rest of her is in the Sounnie sweater.

The black part of the warp is Swedish Klövsjö wool and the silvery grey is Gotland wool from the lamb Sounnie. If you watched my Gotland wool webinar have seen me comb this wool there. 2,2×209 cm, 67 g.

This warp was quite tricky to handle. The yarn was fuzzy and the warp threads clung to each other, making each shuttling a challenge. But I saw the potential of the yarn as a band and didn’t give up.

I do love this band. I may play with it in an upgrade of the woolen spindle cases I make for my spinning classes.

Broadbean green

I spun and dyed the broadbean green yarn for a helmet hat for a friend’s newborn baby some years ago. Swedish Jämtland wool and silk, so soft and silky. The grey yarn is Shetland wool. I spun it originally for my Sassenach shawl in the Slow fashion 2 video. I used the leftover warp yarn for a woven scarf for my father. Apparently there was a skein left even after that.

Broadbean green warp in Jämtland wool and silk. The dark grey warp is Shetland wool. 1,7×221 cm, 31 g.

This was a very smooth and easy weaving. Thin warp threads that were very well behaved. The band is slim and even.

Bog body

The bog body yarn is part of my contribution to the Swedish spinning championships 2019. It is the outercoat only of Värmland wool. The yarn is my warp yarn for the championships assignment. The task was to spin your interpretation of the coat of a man found in a peat bog. He turned out to be from the 14th century and wore the only complete man’s outfit found from that time period.

Värmland outercoat in a sleek band. 1,7×137 cm, 32 g.

This too was a very nice weave with a smooth and cooperative warp. Since the yarn was spun from outercoat only the band is very dense and sturdy, but still sleek and shiny. This was a lovely weaving experience.

Rustic Värmland

I did have my doubts when I warped for this band. I had a feeling that this warp would stick. I was right. For every shuttling I needed to separate the warp manually thread by thread. At the same time I knew how much I would love the rustic feeling of this band. I was right about that too!

Värmland wool in dark and light shades made a rustic band. 2,0×143 cm, 36 g.

The dark brown warp is Viola the Värmland ewe, a very pleasant spinning experience. The lighter warp is also Värmland wool, from a medal winning fleece from the Swedish fleece championships of 2017. I spun it on a mediaval style spindle and distaff. The rest of the fleece is in a pair of Venus mittens and my Heartwarming half-mitts.

Just a few decimeters from the end of the warp a thread broke and I cut the warp. It is now in my thrums bag, ready for another go at rya knots!

Weaving more bands

I’m not done weaving bands. This was a really rewarding method and I want to investigate it further. But first of all I’m going to finish those tablet weaving projects that have been taken up space in my ufo stash and in my mind.

Transfering new knowledge

By learning how to weave bands with a rigid heddle and the backstrap method I have learned a new textile technique. That, in itself, is a gift that I cherish. The beauty of this is that things I have learned are also applicable to other techniques and bigger projects.

Clinging warp threads

By seeing and feeling the consequences of a fuzzy yarn I can make wiser choices for upcoming bigger weaving projects. If a weft that is 2 cm wide is making trouble because of clingy warp threads, how much trouble wouldn’t there be for a 40 cm width? And if a warp thread breaks due to the clinginess and abrasion, how many warp threads would break in a larger project? Well, I already know this from a previous project where over 20 warp threads broke. But in a small project as this I get the chance to understand why this happens.

The body as part of the loom

This is my only experience so far with the backstrap method. But I love it already and I understand the importance of the body for the weaving experience and result. This simple method is so much easier to understand for me than a loom big enough to live in. I see the resemblance with the difference between spindle and wheel where my body movements are integral parts of the operation. This makes the technique so much easier to understand.

A pile of rolled-up woven bands.
Five woven bands, beautiful in all their simplicity.

I love my sweet pile of handwoven bands. Such a simple idea yet so brilliant and useful. An weaving plain bands is just a small taste of what someone can achieve with patterns and more knowledge. Still, I like the simple design of these. They show off the simple beauty of the handspun.

Happy stashbusting!


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!

Chair pads

My chair pads with Ghiordes knots are finished! They are such a joy to sit on and I smile every time I see them, especially considering they are made of handspun thrums and stashed handspun yarn only. The old store-bought pads with their innards crawling out of them are buried, forgotten and forgiven.

Stashbuster chair pads

During the fall I started making rya chair pads. The inspiration came from when I took a craft leadership course. For the classes we sat on stools with woven pads with rya knots that felt very cozy to sit on. I kept the pads in my mind and one day I connected them with all my saved handspun thrums and odd skeins of handspun yarn.

The warp is Shetland wool and the weft is Värmland wool that just hadn’t found their project yet. My plan was to make all the knots from saved thrums, but I ran out of thrums at quite an early stage in the process. The blue/white and the thinly striped in greens are the only ones made completely of thrums.

The numbers

The pattern consists of four parts: One row of rya knots and three shuttlings. One such series takes me around ten minutes. Every chair pad has around 40 such series and according to my calculations one pad has taken around seven hours to finish. Plus of course the time it took to spin the yarn. You can see how I made the knots in this post.

I wanted to replace the ugly pads on our eight chairs, so I warped for eight pads. Perhaps I should have thought of the bulk of eight knotted pads on the cloth beam before doing that. I will tell you more about why further down in this post.

There is a lot of bulk on the cloth beam. Cow pattern in dark brown Shetland wool and white Swedish finewool.

I used just under one kilo of handspun yarn for this project. One kilo of odd skeins, colours that I had found no use for and early creations that don’t match the standards I have today. It feels so good to have used these precious skeins for warming our behinds.

The pads

I decided to just use the yarns I had and make a new pattern for every new pad. The only theme of the pads is the stashbusting. I must say that it has been very satisfying to find such a good use for these yarns that have been filling my handspun stash.

Blue and white

My plan for the first pad was to make it blue. The plan worked perfectly until I ran out of blue thrums mid-pad. So I simply used white for the rest of the pad. Which turned out to be less than half of the pad. But still, a pretty pad. I spun the blue yarn from Swedish Leicester wool and dyed it. The wool has beautiful shine, just like rya knots are supposed to. The thrums comes from a twill pillowcase I finished just before I started warping for the chair pads.

A fuzzy chair pad in blue and white.
My very first chair pad in blue and white

The white yarn is a rya/Swedish finewool mixbreed. The thrums comes from a blanket I wove a few years ago. Yarn from rya wool is the traditional yarn you use for rya rugs. The fibers are strong and make durable and shiny knots for any rug.

Green waves

For my second pad I did have a plan. I wanted to alternate colours and number of rows in the stripes in sort of a continuum – there are three colours in the pad but every other stripe is light, making a four stripe series. The stripes is a series of three: 4 + 2 + 2 rows in the stripes. This means that the total repeat is 12 stripes.

Green waves made with thrums from two pillowcases.

The thrums comes from two pillowcases, the Blanka pillowcase and the non-Blanka pillowcase in Shetland and Dalapäls wool. The yarn is a bit too thin for a pad, but I still like it.

Hjärterum – room for the heart

There is a saying in Swedish going: “Finns det hjärterum så finns det stjärterum”. This translates to “If there is room for the heart there is room for the bum”, meaning that if you have room for a person in your heart you will scooch over and make room for that person to sit, even if there aren’t enough seats.

A weaving project on a loom. The pattern is knots in a V-shape. The weaver's knees are visible below the warp threads, creating a heart together with the V shape.
Heart and filling in Shetland wool, background in Swedish finewool. Warp is Shetland wool and weft is Värmland wool.

This is the only pad I made a chart for. Or, well, I made it and used it until I lost it around the time the picture above was taken. But I think I did all right even on the chart-less part. The heart and the filling is thrums of Shetland wool, from a blanket and a scarf. The white background is a stashed yarn from Pia-Lotta the Swedish finewool lamb. She was my very first fleece.

Moo

Each pad has been planned during the weaving of the previous. So, mid-heart I realized I needed to weave a cow. And so I did. A typical Swedish landrace cow in white with dark brown patches.

A fuzzy textile with a cow pattern in white with dark brown patches.
I just felt a need to weave a cow

The dark brown patches are Shetland wool, the same yarn as the warp. The white is the same Swedish finewool as the heart background.

Textured whites

My idea for this pad was to make an all-white pad with different thicknesses of yarn to make a textured surface. The bulkiest yarn was too bulky to fold in the knots, so I made these knots single.

A fuzzy pad in white yarns of different thicknesses.
Different textures of white

It didn’t really turn out as I had expected, but I still like the pattern and it fills its bum warming purpose.

Grey waves

This is one of my favourite pads. Therefore I have placed it on my favourite chair – my spinning chair.

The pads take a lot of yarn. This is one of the heaviest one.

I decided to make a pad with bulkier yarn and I do like the effect. The white stripes are Icelandic wool and the grey are Shetland wool. All the stripes consists of four rows, but since the white yarn is bulkier and less elastic it takes up more room. I like how it sort of floods over the whole pad. The shading of the lighter grey was a coincidence in the first row of the first stripe and I liked it, so I repeated it for the rest of the stripe and the second light grey stripe.

Zebra

Obviously my animal theme wasn’t finished. I needed a zebra too. In my naiveté I thought I just needed to make an irregular striped pattern, but after having studied some googled zebras I realized there was more to it than that. So I added some branches, which resulted in a more accurate zebra pattern. I read somewhere that the mare makes sure to stand very close to her foal just after giving birth to make sure the foal remembers and recognizes her unique pattern and doesn’t get lost in a sea of stripes.

A fuzzy chair pad with a zebra pattern in dark brown and white.
I needed to weave a zebra too. The dark stripes in Norwegian Blæset say and white in Swedish finewool.

While the pattern looks like it is moving, I have only changed 1–3 knots for each row. After having finished one row I have marked the spots on the next row that I will change. To plan for one stripe to move I have had to make sure there is room for that stripe to move by slowly moving the adjacent rows. I have also stepped back to see the whole picture to plan upcoming movement in the stripes.

This is also one of my favourite pads and the pattern I am the most proud of. Despite the small changes in each row the overall pattern looks alive and, well, zebra-esque.

Sloppy warp edgings

As always, I learn a lot from my mistakes when I weave. This time I learned about keeping a close eye on the edges when warping. This was a long warp and apparently it wasn’t evenly spread over the width of the warp beam. This resulted in a tighter tension in the edges of the warp and bubbly chair pads. You can see this particularly in the turquoise, cow and heart pads.

The inside of my heart. You can see the bubbly edges from the over stretched edge threads of the warp.

Once again my woven project creates a map of what I have learned. I am sure someone has told me to keep a close eye on the edge of the warp. But I need to feel it too and understand with my hands what is happening. I am grateful for that.

Trouble shooting

I wrote in the beginning of this post that I had warped for eight pads, but I only made seven. By the beginning of the seventh pad, the zebra, the cloth beam started to fuss. The handle unclicked itself from its clicker pawl and the warp went very loose. The handle was all loose but I still couldn’t get it off the loom to investigate what had gone wrong. I contacted my supplier and she quickly sent me a maintenance kit with a new handle. When I saw the kit I quickly understood how it was assembled and could remove the handle from the cloth beam. I realized that there was nothing wrong with the handle or any of its parts. Instead, the thickness of the cloth on the beam had gradually loosened the screw that connected the cloth beam to the side pieces. This had caused the handle to turn loose and disconnect itself from the clicker pawl.

The zebra pad. Knots in Norwegian Blæset sau and Swedish finewool. This is also a favorite.

So, the seventh pad took ages to weave. The warp was very loose and I had to stop and tighten the screw every few shuttlings. But for some reason this made me pay extra close attention to the warp and this last pad turned out to be the most even one!

What about the eighth pad?

I had made plans for the eighth pad. I was going to make it into sort of a rag rug – using the last yarn I had in a striped pattern with white and coloured stripes and letting them replace one another as I ran out of a colour.

A fuzzy chair pad in white and grey stripes, hanging over the backrest of a red wooden chair.
Simple stripes to warm your behind.

Due to the unscrewed cloth beam the eighth pad didn’t happen. Yet. I don’t feel finished with this technique. Although very time consuming, it has been a joyful an educational ride and a very satisfying way to relieve my handspun and thrums stash.

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!

The fulling mill

A few weeks ago I published a video I called A meditation. In the video I wanted to pay a tribute to the meditative aspects of spinning on a supported spindle.

Josefin Waltin spinning on a spindle by a mill wheel
Spinning at the fulling mill.

We shot  the video at a 17th century industrial site in Dala-Floda, Sweden. The site consists of, among other things, a number of water mills by a creek. One of the mills is a fulling mill.

An old mill house by a creek
Kvarna fulling mill at Dala-Floda, Sweden.

The fulling mill

A fulling mill (vadmalsstamp in Swedish) is a water mill that people use to full, or felt, their woolen cloth to make a sturdy and windproof felted material, used for wadmal clothing. Times were hard in Sweden once and wadmal clothing was the only thing that kept the wind and the cold out.

The inside of a water mil.
The door out to the mill wheel. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The typical cloth for fulling is a loosely woven woolen cloth. The cloth is carefully folded like an accordion and placed in a trough under the big fulling stocks. For the fulling to work you need to pour hot water on the cloth.

Wooden stocks in a fulling mill.
The fulling stocks and the troughs. Isn’t this the perfect murder scene? Killed by fulling. photo by Dan Waltin.

The water-driven mill wheel drives the stocks so that they beat the woven woolen cloth and thus full it. The trough is rounded in the bottom. In the front, the trough mirrors the shape of the stocks. This makes the cloth move around, thus allowing it to be evenly fulled.

Fulling 6 kilos of cloth in the fulling mill takes around 6 hours. After the fulling is finished the cloth is carefully rolled up on rods to dry and re-rolled once a day until it is evenly dried.

Behind the fulling stocks are wheels connected to the water mill that drives the stocks.
Behind the fulling stocks is the huge wooden milling mechanics. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The fulling mill at Dala-Floda is one of just a handful of remaining and working fulling mills in Sweden. In the prime time of the industrial site in Dala-Floda the people in the area worked the mill  Monday through Friday. Today it is only worked a couple of times a year as far as I understand it. There is also a working fulling mill at Skansen outdoor museum in Stockholm.

Skansen outdoor museum explains the fulling mill

Skansen outdoor museum in Stockholm has made a beautiful video where they show and explain how the Skansen fulling mill is used. Even though the video is in spoken Swedish, I think you will get the most of the meaning of how the mill works if your Swedish is a little rusty. The last minutes of the video shows how you can full your cloth with your feet in a basin in the comfort of your own home. Fulling your cloth at home will take about 12 hours. Why not let the whole family join in!

Josefin Waltin spinning on a supported spindle
Spinning by the fulling mill. Photo by an Waltin.

I have a secret dream to one day spin a yarn, weave it, full it and sew a garment out of it. Even if I only get to full it by feet, what’s another 12 hours after a sheep-to-cloth process?

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.
  • 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!

Horse buggy cover

I have written in earlier posts about my miniature-scale flax patch and how I grow, process and spin my own flax. This post is about flax processing at a whole different scale.

This is the sixth and last post in my flax series. Earlier posts have covered flax processing in general, the 2018 harvest in my experimental flax patchspinning flax on a spindle,  flax processing and retting. Last year I wrote about the first harvests in my experimental flax patch and my first attempt at spinning flax on a wheel.

A horse buggy cover

This summer we rented a cottage in the Swedish countryside. The landlords are well aware of my textile interest. One day they came to the cottage and said that they had something to show me. I followed them into their kitchen and saw a giant piece of textile. It was a horse buggy cover. They had received it from a relative who was dying and who knew the cover would be well taken care of.

A piece of textile with stripes
The horse buggy cover

The cover was woven from handspun flax from the relative’s in-law’s ancestors. I don’t have a picture of the whole cover, but picture this: A woven blanket the size to fit a two-seat horse buggy for the riders to sit on and perhaps also be covered by in cold weather, like a blanket.

The cover is very densely woven in twill. It is constructed as a pillowcase, so that it can be filled with wool for the winter. The yarn is very fine and evenly spun.

Close-up of a striped textile
Evenly spun and densely woven hand processed flax

When we looked at the inside of the cover, we saw the difference in colour. The outside of the cover had been significantly bleached while the inside had kept its blue colour.

A textile
Looking at the inside reveals the unbleached dye.

The mysteries

How much flax?

So many questions arise when I look at this textile.  Say the cover is at least about 150×200 cm, perhaps even more. And double it for the pillowcase construction. How much flax would you need to grow to weave something this size?

How many farms or harvests?

Did the people who made this cover have enough land of their own to sow all this flax? Were there more farms involved to grow the flax? Or did one family save flax for several year’s growth to process enough flax for the weave?

Who was the spinner?

Who were the people who spun and wove this cover? Was it only one spinner and weaver or were there more people involved?

When was it made?

I have no information of when the cover was made, and we looked for some clues to the time period it could have been made. We looked at the seams and they seemed to be machine sewn, so the cover was probably made in the 20th century.

For what occasion was it made

Was this the regular horse buggy cover that people in general made for themselves for everyday use or was it a fancy cover, or perhaps a community horse buggy cover used for special community occasions?

A little help from a friend

I talked to my friend Maria Neijman of Historical textiles and asked her if she could tell me anything more about the cover based on these photograph. She told me that the weaving technique seems to be warp-faced broken twill to make the cloth dense and durable. I asked if she could tell me anything about the dying. She said that the dark blue yarn in the stripes probably was dyed with indigo. The background colour was more difficult. She said that since the dye had bleached so badly, it may have been dyed with aniline, a synthetic dye.

Some questions answered and many still unanswered. But at the same time it is nice to leave the blanket with its mysteries. Just being able to look at it and feel all the labour and love put into it makes my spinning heart skip a beat.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

This was the last post in my flax series. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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!

Waiting for spring

Josefin Waltin knitting outdoors

I long

Spring is taking its sweet time in Sweden this year. We’re almost at spring equinox and it was -8°C when I got up this morning. It does get warmer in the sun and the birds are singing very spring-like, but there is still snow and degrees below zero during a big part of the day. My whole being is waiting for spring to happen. I long to get out and craft. I have videos to shoot, outdoor knitting to be enjoyed, distaffs to carve and a whole allotment to cultivate. But it’s still too cold for the lanolin and my hands and I can’t put seeds in a frozen ground.

So I do what I can.

I make

I’m knitting away on my twined knitting mittens.  It is a slow and mindful knitting and I love how the whole range of greys are displayed in the fabric. I had my outdoor knitting premiere the other day (featured image), listening to the birds chirping and the dripping of melting snow from the roofs. It was quite lovely.

I finished spinning a fleece that had been waiting for over 18 months to be spun. It was a soft and beautiful Värmland fleece. But it had quite a lot of second cuts and vegetable matter. It was also very dark and difficult to see when preparing and spinning. All these things made me reluctant to spin the fleece. At the same time I felt guilty about not spinning it. But I finally gathered my energy to do it. It turned out to be quite a nice (wheel) spin, despite the dark colour, and I turned into four skeins of strong and lustrous warp yarn.

Three skeins of dark handspun yarn
The Värmland 2-ply warp yarn, 186 g and 306 m (four skeins), about 1600 m/kg.

I also finished an in-hand spinning yarn, the one I started in this video. It is the same fleece as in the twined knitting mittens, but I used the shorter staples and spun them woolen from hand-carded rolags. It came out quite differently compared to the twined knitting yarn.

A skein of grey handspun yarn
2-ply Värmland yarn, 45 g, 105 m, 2300 m/kg. Spun woolen on an in-hand-spindle from hand-carded rolags.

I found my way back to a rigid heddle weave I started before Christmas. It it yet another pillowcase (such a good practice project). This time in 3-shaft. The warp is 2-ply Leicester, worsted spun (wheel) from hand-combed tops and then dyed. The weft is Shetland singles, spun from hand-carded rolags on a Navajo spindle. It was lovely to weave in the spring sun in the kitchen, but I really wanted to be able to weave outdoors.

A rigid heddle weave with blue warp and dark grey weft
The beginning of a pillowcase

I plan

I am planning this season’s videos. There are lots of ideas in my head – more in-hand spinning of different kinds and in different environments, perhaps some flax spinning. I have promised a video on how I spin English long draw on a spinning wheel. I am also thinking something towards mindfulness and meditation.

I’m also planning to make online spinning courses. This is a bigger project and it has to take its time to get a good result. A lot of you are far away from me and my local courses and this is a way to solve the distance issue. If you are interested in taking an upcoming online course, please let me know what you would like and how.

There is still time for you to make requests for upcoming videos. What would you like to see learn, explore?

Happy spinning!


Do you like what I do? Then head over to my Patreon page and become a patron. If you become a patron I have lots of exclusive material in store for you. If you don’t I will still continue with the blog and make videos, just as I have before.

Spinning direction part 3: Historical spinning direction

An archaeological textile find

So far in the series of spinning direction we have looked at the hand movements and the physiology of spindle spinning. We have also looked at the results of a spinning poll. In this post, we will look back in time at how spun yarn has been used in textiles historically to find a clue to spinning habits today.

Archaeological finds

When it comes to archaeological finds of spinning there are tons of metal, clay or stone spindle whorls to look at. But when it comes to organic materials like wood  and textile fibers, most of them have disintegrated through time. But there are still some finds. With a quick Google search, it seems like most textile finds before medieval times were woven with a z/clockwise spun warp and weft. From the medievals most finds were woven with clockwise warp and counter-clockwise weft (sources here and here). In some of the sources there are also a connection between handedness and spinning direction (here and here). This is also confirmed by Maria Neijman, craft consultant in Stockholm and co-founder of Historical textiles.

A closeup of an archaeological textile find.
An archaeological textile find from Uppsala, Sweden around 1300–1490. The find can be seen at the Swedish history museum. Photo by Maria Neijman.

Looking at a textile find

Looking a bit closer at the featured photo (by Maria Neijman), we see that it is a twill weave with a z-spun warp and s-spun weft. The warp is quite tightly spun, with an angle at about 60–70°. The weft is looser, around 40–50°. The weft is also more unevenly spun with both thick and thin spots. For the weave to hold in the loom, the warp needs to be strong. The weft, on the other hand, can be more loosely spun.

What can we derive from the textile history?

If spinning direction in the medievals has a connection to handedness, can it be the case that spinners (of whom around 80–90 % were and are righthanded) have spun most of the yarn clockwise (pulling) because it was more ergonomic for the spinner? The quality of the weft is not as important as the warp when it comes to strength. Is it possible that the counter-clockwise spun weft was looser and more unevenly spun because it was less natural for the righthanded spinner to spin counter-clockwise (pushing)?

What about the lefties?

I am a leftie, and I know that many lefties have had to do things awkwardly. In the crafts lessons at school I wasn’t taught how to crochet since the teacher didn’t know how to teach me. Many leftie friends have had the same experience. With this background, one side of me is a bit annoyed at this biased righthanded history of spinning. But another, much bigger side of me is fascinated at how much we can learn about spinning from looking at textile finds. I am also grateful that I know more now about possible reasons for my spinning cramp and the fact that I can change hands or spinning directions.

Is this true?

We do not know if any of this is true, we can only make more or less qualified guesswork. But somehow it seems logical, and it gives me a peace of mind to know that it may be true. Most commercial yarns today are z-spun and s-plied. Can this be a remnant from the spinning habits of medieval spindle spinners? This thought is thrilling and gives me goosebumps.

This was the last post in this first blog post series. I hope you have enjoyed it!

Clara Sherman Navajo spinning

Clara Sherman spinning on a Navajo spindle

Since I’m not making any new videos this time of year, I thought I’d invite you to see other videos that I like, that feature spinners and spinning techniques around the globe.

First up is a video I’m sure many of you have seen already, but it is so beautiful and inspirational when it comes to Navajo spindle spinning. I am talking about Clara Sherman and her wonderful treatment of spindle, wool and spinning. The way she trusts her body to feel when the twist is just right is so liberating. But not only does she trust her body to feel how the wool wants to be spun, she can also verbalize it and explain it to the viewer. That’s skill and knowledge on a deep level. She has a true respect for the wool and animates it when she talks about the wool crying.

The video features all the parts of the process from sheep to the finished rug, and it emphasizes the importance of thoughtful and thorough preparation to make a high quality all the way to the end product.

Clara Sherman died a few years ago, at the age of 96. I’m so happy that someone filmed her and made some of her talent available on YouTube so that  we have the opportunity to learn from her.

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