Reciprocity

Reciprocity: from the Latin word reciprocus, meaning ‘moving backwards and forwards’. I buy wool, worth so much more and on a completely different scale than the money I paid for it. A gift from the sheep. I give back in the skill and love I invest in working with it from fleece to textile.

When I see a fleece I see a gift. Even if I have bought the wool for money there is something more, something bigger than a monetary value in the material. A sheep farmer tended the sheep and the pastures. The sheep managed the landscape and grew the wool. These are gifts that work in a dimension way above and beyond money.

I reflect today on reciprocity. On the sharing of gifts that go backwards and forwards in a slow, sweet and ongoing dance between the souls who once took a first step to the beat of the sharing of gifts.

The gifts of wool

There are so many gifts in the wool. Gifts that come sweetly packed in curls and waves. And, if you look close enough, layers and layers of gifts as you peel them off humbly, slowly and mindfully.

Robin Wall Kimmerer writes in her beautiful and important book Braiding Sweetgrass:

“Paying attention is a form of reciprocity with the living world, receiving the gifts with open eyes and open heart.”

I do my best to listen to the wool with open eyes and an open heart while also reflecting over this on the blog and when I teach spinning and wool handling. I’m forever grateful for the wisdom of book, what it has taught me and what it keeps teaching me as long as I pay attention and listen. Read this book. It has helped me understand so much more and on a much deeper level about the relationships we have with each other and with nature.

The gift of wool in itself

The first and perhaps the most obvious gift is the wool in itself – an exquisite material that will keep me and my loved ones warm and safe. A material that has so many superpowers and so many manifestations as finished textiles.

My very first skein of handspun yarn. Fine finull lamb's wool, hand carded on rusty cards and plied with some fawn alpaca since I didn't have enough fleece.
My very first skein of handspun yarn. Fine finull lamb’s wool, hand carded on rusty cards and plied with some fawn alpaca since I didn’t have enough fleece.

I’m grateful for that first spinning lesson almost ten years ago when I got a box of just-shorn finull wool in my lap, a spindle and a pair of handcards. Back then I didn’t understand the greatness of this single moment, but I think about it often, smiling in my heart at what it has given me.

The gift of characteristics

The characteristics of each individual fleece, whether it’s the shine, the softness the strength or the colour, are all a gift. Every characteristic is something I can work with and learn from. From all the gifts I get from the characteristics of the fleece I want to give back by making the most of them, by making them shine in the yarn and allow the soul of the fleece to sparkle.

The gift of learning

By exploring the wool as I work with it through every step from raw fleece to a finished yarn or textile I learn what it is about, what its strengths are and how I can work with it to honur the sheep that gave me its wool.

Carding the wool by hand gives me the opportunity to listen to it. If I pay attention I will hear it whisper to me how it works and how it likes to be treated.

As I tease the wool I learn about the elasticity and viscosity of the wool. As I card or comb I learn about the length of the fibers and how they relate to each other. When I spin I experience the elasticity, viscosity, length and relationships again, confirming my previously gained knowledge, provided I have listen well enough. In knitting, weaving or whatever technique I use, I learn how the yarn behaves as a material in its new shape. The things I learn I pay forward in courses and blog posts to my students and supporters.

The gift of the craft

I have learned so much about spinning and wool handling since that first day when I got the box of finull wool in my lap. Yet I know I have so much more to learn. The aim of my first yarn was to spin a Z-plied yarn for two-end knitting. While I did manage to spin S and ply Z the yarn was not fit to use for anything really. I had the naïve idea that I would be able to spin something that in both quality and quantity would be enough for a textile that I would want to wear.

Eventually I did spin my first yarn for two-end knitting, from that very first fleece. It was way underspun and way too soft. But I didn’t realize that back then, it dawned on me years later when I spun my third or fourth yarn for two-end knitting. Now, at my fifth or sixth two-end knitting yarn I still learn. How to process, spin, ply and sample to create a yarn I can use and enjoy. Regardless of whether I can actually use and enjoy it I know that I will learn from it.

Crafts leading to new crafts

The gift of the craft is also about having the fortune of actually knowing a craft, knowing how to keep me and my loved ones warm and safe.

After having learned to weave I have been able to improve my weaving yarns. For the gift of wool I give back by making the yarns sparkle. Outercoat fibers of Klövsjö and Härjedal wool spun worsted on a suspended spindle. Used in a backstrap woven bag (shown above). Photo by Dan Waltin.

By learning how to spin I have also visited other crafts. As my spinning journey developed I realized that I needed to learn how to weave to be able to spin a wider spectrum of yarns. Gifts of new crafts came. I am definitely still a beginner at weaving, but I still love all the weaving I can do. Learning how to weave has in turn taught me about how I want my weaving yarns.

The gift of the process

Mmm… the process. Not only the process from the newly shorn fleece through preparing, spinning, plying, finishing and making a textile, but the process in the hands and the brain during whatever step of the process I am enjoying right now. The process of mindfully picking lock by lock from the fleece, of dancing the teased wool through cards or combs and of feeding the yarn into the twist.

The gift of process, where I find a sense of balance in a space that is my own.

The process gives me the gift of space, balance, lightness and freedom, such precious gifts. When my hands and my brain are in the process my shoulders relax. I breathe slower and deeper. The wool enters my hands with the gift of touch, rhythm and ease. As a person living with chronic migraines the process gives me a moment of focus on something else than the vize-like pressure on my senses, a moment to breathe easier and be somewhere else than in the migraine.

When I am in the process I am in a room that is my own, where thoughts are welcome to come and go just as the fibers come and go. There is a sense of allowing, lightness and ease in my room. A sacred place where listening and kindness are keys. I like to think that being in my spinning process makes me a more balanced and humble person, gifts that I hope I am able to spread to the people around me.

The gift of mistakes

Sometimes I think I learn more from my mistakes than I do when everything runs smoothly. At least I learn more suddenly. I know by now that mistakes are good – by making a mistake and analyzing it I will hopefully learn – hands-on – why it happened and what I can do to avoid it the next time.

Every time I look at the mistake I will remember the circumstances around it. I embrace my mistakes and am thankful for them. Even if I may growl a bit when they happen I know I will have use for the experience sooner or later.

The gift of time

Time is an essential part of spinning. Not only the time it takes to actually spin enough yarn for a project, but also the time spent with the woo. The simpler the tools and setup the closer I come to the wool. The less of the mechanics that are in the tools the more the mechanics are in me. I become a part of the tool – I am the tool as I spin on spindles, I am the loom when I weave with a backstrap loom and I am the sewing machine when I hand stitch.

Combed Swedish Leicester wool spun on a suspended spindle into an embroidery yarn. The yarn got me a gold medal in the 2020 Swedish spinning championships. The yarn was part of my auction for Ukraine and now lives in Australia.

All these simple tools take time, but it is also time spent with the wool and with the techniques. This goes for the preparation of the wool too – I want to do all the steps myself and with hand tools, from sorting the wool through picking, teasing, processing and spinning. The time I spend with the wool through all the steps of the process is time and opportunity to listen to the wool and learn. Slow is a superpower and time spent with the wool a gift.

The gift beyond time

Spinning is a space for me, a sacred space beyond time. A space where I get to go with the flow of the fibers, listen to them to understand what steps to take next. In my spinning space I allow myself to just be with the wool and receive the reflections that gently glide through my mind, without expectations, without restrictions.

There is a dimension beyond time that is an extra precious gift, a sacred space where I am allowed to listen to the wool and just be. Photo by Dan Waltin

The gift beyond time is one that goes deeper than any of the other gifts I receive from spinning. I can’t pay back for this gift. But I can express my gratitude by gently dressing my reflections in the sweetest words I can think of and share them with the world.

Reciprocating the gifts

I want to reciprocate al these gifts through the time, skill and love I give back to the wool as I work with it from fleece to a finished yarn or textile. As part of a web of reciprocity it is my responsibility to pay back or forward for the gifts I receive. By being ever curious I want to find the superpowers of the wool and make it the star of the project I make. Even if I can’t give much more back to the sheep and the sheep farmer than my gratitude I can always give it forward by my presence in the wool, by listening to what it teaches me and by sharing my creative process with the world.

Backwards and forwards

I know my gifts will be returned to me or paid forward one way or another. Perhaps someone who reads what I do helps another spinner find a new perspective or listen to the wool. I will continue to return or pay the gifts offered to me forward. Reciprocity seems to work that way, like a dance you dance together, giving and receiving.

I write mindfully about the beautiful wool from Elsa the Gestrike sheep. When Elsa a few months later gives birth to two sweet black ewe lambs with white tufts on their foreheads I get the honour of naming them. I pick the names Barbro and Anita, after two of the women who back in the 1980’s and -90’s nurtured a couple of the oldest flocks of what later was established as Gestrike sheep. As a thank you to generations of sheep farmers I give back again to the sheep and the breed by naming the lambs after some of the pioneers.


Today is my 49th birthday. Perhaps writing this blog post is a part of a returning pre-birthday process of contemplating the years gone by and the years to come. I have an old wise woman deep inside and I’m very fond of her. As time goes by I like to think I’m getting closer to her. I do my best to treat her lovingly and respectfully. In return I will hopefully get some of her wisdom.

I receive so many gifts from you, all sweetly wrapped in kindness and experience. This post is a gift back. I’m so grateful for you all, for dancing to the beat of reciprocity and the sharing of gifts.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

Linen pocket

A while ago I started to take an interest in loose pockets. When my friend Cecilia and I got to dress in 18th century clothing when we shot the Walking wheel video at Vallby open air museum I desperately wanted to wear a loose pocket underneath my skirts. And when we were on a guided tour in the costume collections at Skansen open air museum I asked if we could see the loose pockets. Today I present my linen pocket. Warning: Nothing in this post is spinning related.

Can we talk about the size and weight of mobile phones? And the existence and if so the size of pockets on women’s trousers, skirts and dresses? With the few clothes that happen to have pockets large enough for a mobile phone the weight of the device turns the clothing askew. They may also tear or break.

As we got dressed for the Walking wheel video I insisted on finding loose pockets to wear underneath our skirts. Perfect for not so 18th century things like mobile phones, mini tripods and credit cards.

A loose pocket on the other hand is the perfect solution for both nonexistent, too small or torn pockets. It can be used and mended while keeping the trousers reasonably whole. The thought of different pockets for different occasions, seasons, mood or simply the crafting craving of the day is also appealing.

Loose pockets

A loose pocket is just what it sounds like – a loose pocket to wear around your hip, either plain and secretly underneath a skirt or visibly and decadently embellished, some semi visible with embellishments on only one half. Kjolsäck is the most common word for this accessory in Swedish – meaning skirt pouch. At a guided tour at the costumes collection at Skansen open air museum we got the opportunity to look at beautifully embellished kjolsäck pockets from different areas in county Dalarna.

Typically the wearer would keep important things like needles and a sewing or knitting project in the pocket, as well as herbs for staying awake during long church visits and perhaps something to keep the children at peace.

A pocket dream

I am not sure where this pocket dream came from, but it has been lurking in the back of my mind for a while, squeaking silently every now and then to remind me of its existence. I had an embroidery pattern in another corner of my mind, intended for something else, but as I realized that I could experiment with a pocket of my own I decided to practice the pattern on the pocket.

My plans for my first linen pocket.

Since I have no connection to either traditional regional costumes or reenactment I decided to make a style that I wanted and not follow regional costume rules or historical correctness. I just wanted a pocket to fit my needs now.

Recycled linen pocket

While I was planning my pocket project I decided to only use material that I had at home or that I had eBayed.

  • I bought two linen damask towels from Swedish eBay for the pocket material.
  • The linen embroidery yarns are also from Swedish eBay.
  • The linen weaving yarn is a commercial yarn from my stash.
  • I found a tablet woven band that I made a few years ago in a band weaving frenzy.
  • At the last minute I realized I needed key carabiners for the loops, and I got them from Swedish eBay too.
  • And oh, the embroidery hoop comes from a flea market.

A pocket recipe

Front and back

The first thing I did was to draw a line around my spread-out hand to find a size. I drew a shape I liked and transferred it to the pink (back side) towel. I made slightly larger version that I transfered to the turquoise (front side) towel. That way I got the opportunity to frill the front piece for a bellows effect. I also figured the bellowed front side would keep the pocket flat against my hip.

Embroidery

When the shape was drawn on the front side towel I started embroidering an amoeba shaped pattern with a couching stitch (läggsöm). I love the freedom of this stitch, I can just let the yarn lead the way and enjoy the ride. When I was happy with the embroidery I ironed interfacing on the back of the front side for protection and extra sturdiness. I cut out the front side and two back sides, with interfacing on one of them. To keep the shape neat I added an inner pocket for my mobile phone on the back piece and two band loops with carabiners for important stuff like keys and needle cases.

Shaping

While I ruffled the bottom of the front pice for extra room I kept it tight at the top for a neat opening. I added a protecting Kumpay seam at the top of the pocket opening. I found it in the book Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez and in an online course by Laverne Waddington.

Weaving, tubular and flat

After having tacked the front and back pieces together I wove and sew a tubular band in a linen yarn as an edging. This is common in the Andes and I found the instructions in the same sources as the Kumpay stitch. It was a bit fiddly and has a charmingly irregular look.

At this stage I had a very limited amount of the turquoise colour left. For the ties I used the same weaving yarn and wove a 180 cm band, ending with pretty cords of the warp ends. The colour pattern is carefully planned and only a meter or so remains of the turquoise yarn.

I warped the ties as a circular warp, which always fascinates me. But then again, weaving is such an amazing art form and I am only nibbling gently at a very small edge of the weaving universe.

A myriad of details in a small project

I love making small projects. It gives me the opportunity to try new techniques and adding details. The couching stitch, the Kumpay edging, the tubular band and the cords, all quite time consuming, but on a small project still doable.

Herbs and things for the kids aren’t my first choices to inhabit my pocket. I’m more into housing my mobile phone (or my husband’s in this case since I took the photo with mine) and any sort of textile project. The mini Pushka is there for good luck.

For the finishing touch I hand stitched the woven band onto the pocket. I had no idea really what to do with the warp ends of the tubular band, and I decided to simply tuck them in between the two back piece layers and hope they would behave.

More pockets to come

I have loved my first pocket project. There will be more pockets. I have learned from my first project and I will make some alterations for future projects. The linen towel was a little to thin and wobbly, at least on the front piece that was single. I may alter the size and the amount of bellow room. I like the opportunity to fit stuff into the pocket, but at the same time it mustn’t be too big and clumsy.

This will be a summer pocket and for my next I’m planning a more autumnal and wintery, in wool. There is so much to play with and I am ready to dive in.

and oh, a book is on its way to me – Pocket: A hidden history of women’s lives, 1660–1900 by Barbara Burman and Ariane Fennetaux. I can’t wait!

Happy spinning!


Thank you all 237 (a record!) who registered for last week’s breed study webinar on Åland wool and all 65+ who came to the livestream. I had the loveliest time!


You can find me in several social media:

Opposites attract

It happened again. A baby idea came and made up its mind not to leave me alone until I had listened to it. The baby idea told me to combine rustic gute fleece with recycled sari silk with the motivation that opposites attract. I listened and I’m glad I did.

A while ago I bought a gute fleece. Gute sheep have a very rustic wool that often has a coarse appearance. You can read more about gute wool here. This one was quite unusual, though, with its very soft undercoat and the outercoat playing only a minor part. Still, as with gute in general, the fleece has kemp.

Kemp

Kemp is fibers that have a dominant core with air-filled cells that make the fibers brittle. They are coarse and don’t conform themself with the rest of the fibers, instead they point quirkily in all directions. The upside with kemp, though, is that they fall out of the wool eventually and leave air pockets. And in yarn, air means warmth.

A lovely and in my experience quite rare gute fleece with lots of very fine undercoat, a few strands of outercoat and some kemp. The kemp keeps the staples open and light.

A fulling project

Kemp also gives a rustic look to a fabric. I like a fulled fabric with quirky kemp in it. My original plan for this fleece was to spin a 2-ply yarn to weave and full in a fulling mill. The combination of lots of undercoat with quite small amount of outercoat and kemp makes this a perfect candidate. The undercoat has excellent felting properties, the outercoat binds the fibers together and makes the fabric stronger and the kemp adds an interesting design element while at the same time bringing warmth to the fabric as it falls out and leaves air pockets.

Enter Sari silk

And so the baby idea came to me. What would happen if I blended the rustic gute wool with recycled sari silk? Would the very different fibers complement each other or would they just look odd? If so, would that be a bad thing?

I have blended recycled sari silk with wool before, in my sweater designs Margau beta and Selma Margau (available as a pattern in Spin-Off magazine). The fleeces have been finer and the results scrumptious. I decided to give my baby idea the benefit of the doubt and make a test skein and fulled swatches.

Teasing

So, first of all I teased the wool. I chose to tease with my combing station, where I could at the same time blend the sari silk with the wool. I charge the stationary comb with the (picked) gute staples. For the purpose of teasing I don’t care about the direction of the staples. I also add tufts of sari silk. To keep a reasonably even wool to silk ratio I charge every combload with 8 staple length tufts of sari silk.

As I doff the roving off the stationary comb a lot of the sari silk and the kemp stays in the comb. I try to fiddle the silk out.

I do about four passes in the combing station to get an even roving. There is one tricky thing here, though. As I doff the wool off the combs I get the longer lengths first, then shorter and shorter. Since both the sari silk and the kemp is very short, around one inch, a lot of it stays in the stationary comb. I try to fiddle the sari silk out to the best of my ability. I will try flicking the cut ends of the gute staples before teasing next time to get more kemp out.

You can see how I tease wool, blend it with sari silk and card rolags in this video.

Carding

As I card luscious rolags, the sari silk blends beautifully into the gute wool, like sparkling stars on a foggy night. Unexpected but mesmerizing.

This wool is just dreamy to work with. Very light and airy with a lovely meringue-y resistance to it. The rolags shape themselves like they were born to do just that. If I lean in I hear them singing sweet songs of yummy longdraws. My heart joins in in the chorus.

The longdraws from heaven

Yes, these newborn rolag babies need and deserve a wicked longdraw. As it turns out, the rolags work that out too, I just treadle along and listen to the wool. I allow it to decide how thick it wants to be. It settles for a quite fine thickness that after plying and washing blooms out into a sport weight yarn.

As I look at the newborn yarn I see something unique, a blend that I had never thought of before, but that flirts with me in a new way. I see the differences between the fibers and I tingle at their odd union.

Opposites attract

The kemp and the silk in this blend represent the ends of a number of spectra. While the gute wool is raw (in the sense that it hasn’t been processed) the sari silk has been spun, dyed, woven, ripped and processed again. The colours of the sari silk are vibrant and almost luminescent while the gute wool is softly grey. The kemp doesn’t even take dye. While the sari silk easily blends into the draft the kemp in the gute wool is quirky and goes its own way, often out of the yarn entirely. The kemp leaving air pockets in the yarn, the silk filling them. The silk sari, sheer and draped, the gute wool heavily fulled, dense.

However, as there are numerous ways in which these fibers are different, I can find sweet similarities too. Both sari silk and gute wool have depth in their colours, just on different scales. One on the vibrant side and the other on a subtle grey scale. The fine gute undercoat goes hand in hand with the silk. All the fibers – outercoat, undercoat and silk follow the dance of the twist. Well, not so much the kemp.

Another parameter the sari silk and the kemp have in common is their length. They are both quite short, around an inch long. Due to this similarity in length they stay in the combs when I have pulled the teased fibers out. If I pull out more silk, I get the kemp too. And there they are, side by side, like fiber sisters.

Clown barf?

As I investigate the yarn I wonder if I added too much sari silk. There are quite a lot of colour splashes. Is it too much? I remember a Swedish spinning forum discussion where the word clown barf was mentioned in reference to a very pastelly combed top. Was this approaching a brighter clown barf cousin?

I wrote down the wool to silk ratio and made a mental note about perhaps reducing the amount of sari silk. First I would see what happened in the weaving and fulling.

Sampling and fulling

So, I brought out my pin loom and started making samples to play with. Usually when I experiment with fulling I make two swatches – one that I leave as it is for reference and one that I full. This time I decided to make two fulling samples with different degrees of fulling. This turned out to be an excellent idea.

My theory was that since I believed that silk doesn’t felt the splashes of colour would bulk up and make blobs. This is why I was considering using less sari silk. The clown barfiness calmed down in the woven samples and even more in the fulled swatches. In the heavier fulled swatch the sari silk hardly shows at all. Little enough to leave the sari silk out altogether for that degree of fulling. It turns out that silk does felt.

I do love the lightly fulled swatch, the one I decided to make on a whim. It has a lovely movement that its stiffer cousin doesn’t have. The sari silk glows softly in the comfort of the squishy grey. Side by side with the sari silk is the quirky kemp, eager to see the world.

Under the loupe

Astonished by the fulling results I texted the pictures of the fulled samples to my brilliant friend Cecilia. “What do they look like under the loupe?” she asked in reply. That was the best idea I had heard all week. Of course I need to observe some felting action under a loupe!

So, after some fiddling I managed to get the three swatches under the loupe and some decent photos. As I look at them I see so many interesting things:

  • Silk fibers are really fine! But the gute undercoat is also very fine in this fleece.
  • I can see the light gute fibers, mostly the finer ones but also some with a wider diameter. This seems to confirm my observation of the staples being build up of mostly undercoat fibers and just a few strands of outercoat fibers and that the latter aren’t that coarse.
  • The quirkiness of the kemp (the dark fibers) really shows in the images.
  • There is a thrilling migration going on in the swatches which becomes very clear under the loupe. While the sari silk is superficial and the kemp in the center of the fabric in the original swatch (left), they seem to have traded places in the heavily fulled swatch (right). In both fulled swatches, but especially the heavily fulled, the kemp is on the surface and the sari silk cosily snug in the center. This is visible in the unmagnified photos too – you can see how the sari silk is more diffuse in the fulled samples and the kemp superficial, ready for take-off.

The migration was very fascinating to me and quite the opposite of what I had anticipated before I made the fulled samples. The clown barfiness faded and the marriage between the rough and fine was a success, especially in the lightly fulled sample. The kemp will probably keep migrating out into the world, way outside of the textile.

J’accuse

At the beginning of this week I didn’t know what to write in today’s blog post. I decided to try my gute silk idea to have something to write about. Hadn’t I done that I would never have analyzed it this thoroughly. J’accuse! I totally blame you, my dear readers, for this blog post and its revelations. Thank you! And thank you Cecilia for reminding me to exercise my loupe.

Happy spinning!

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.
  • You are also welcome to make one-off donations on my Ko-fi page.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how
  • 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.

Mending apparatus

For some years now I have been longing to get hold of a 1940’s mending machine, “Stoppapparaten Perfekt” (the mending apparatus Perfect), also known in English as Speedweve. This week I won a bid for the mending apparatus at Swedish eBay (Tradera). As soon as I had got it out of the box I searched the house for holes to mend. I found plenty.

The Stoppapparaten Perfekt is such a great little tool. Small, portable, lightweight and with everything you need to mend holes, except for the hole itself and the mending yarn. But it is so much more than that. It is a piece of history in a little cardboard box.

The mending apparatus

The mending apparatus was produced in the thousands in the 1940’s. The Swedish version was made in a welding workshop in Stockholm. The daughter of the owner writes in an article that she and her brother used to put them together in the workshop for 5 Swedish öre a piece. Street vendors stood in every other street corner of Stockholm, demonstrating the mending process in the speed of light and sold box after box.

Stoppapparaten Perfekt, a perfect little mending apparatus. From the manual: “A practical novelty for mending any kind of finer or coarser woven or knitted goods. […] The mending becomes a pleasant pastime.”

A tantalizing textile tool treasure

Most people have no clue about this apparatus when they see it. But among textile people this is a highly sought after item. When it happens to turn up at an auction lots of people bid lots of money. The box says it cost 3 Swedish kronor in 1940. In today’s money it would be around 80 kronor/$8.5/7.5€. My winning bid at the auction was 800 kronor, a normal winning bid for the mending apparatus. I am aware that it is a crazy sum for a small piece of metal. At the same time it is a cultural heritage. Even if they were sold by the thousands in the 1940’s the supply isn’t endless, especially considering that most people who find it in their attics or dusty old boxes have no clue what it is. So I’m happy I got mine.

Awkward syntax

Another piece of history in this cardboard box treasure chest is the instruction sheet. Or, to be more precise, the language in the instruction sheet. As a linguist (and ex interpreter) I am truly fascinated by the way every sentence is made in a most fascinatingly complicated and heavy fashion. Loads of passive phrases, obsolete expressions and unnecessary words. It takes a long time to read and even longer to comprehend.

The lovely, yet horrific manual to the mending apparatus.

Quick, artful and no previous knowledge required

The funny thing is that the manufacturer advertises the use of the apparatus with the exclamations “Quick! Artful! No previous knowledge required!” Well, once you manage to get through the instructions it may be sort of quick if you have basic weaving skills (that were most probably considered common knowledge among housewives in the 1940’s). But instead of getting you stuck already at the instructions, I invite you to watch this beautiful video where Kajsa Larsdotter methodically explains how to use the mending apparatus. After that you will be all set to mend.

Cultivated, simple and comprehensible

In my day job I work as an administrative officer at a Swedish authority. Every day I make and write decisions. One of my most important jobs is to make the decisions understandable to the receiver. They have the right to know what we grant, what we reject and why. As a government official I need to follow the Swedish language act that states that the language in the public sector should be cultivated, simple and comprehensible (vårdat, enkelt och begripligt). In the beginning we wrote horrific texts that weren’t even comprehensible to our law department. However, since then we have made quite a journey in writing the decisions in a cultivated, simple and comprehensible way.

Reading a text like the instructions to the mending apparatus makes me gasp for air at the first sentence (or the first quarter of the first sentence since they are a mile long). Here is a translation of one of the sections in the instruction sheet:

“7. Insert the pin in the loops and remove the darning mushroom, when enough transverse threads have been threaded that the hole is covered, and turn the frame so that the longitudinal threads fall out of the hooks, and weave in the ends in a regular manner and the work is finished.”

I could go on. But I won’t. Instead I will mend.

Mending

I chose a cashmere sweater I have worn to pieces. I actually bought it for my husband a few years ago. It was quite cheap for cashmere (and I do understand why now). Unfortunately he accidentally felted it in the washing machine. Fortunately it shrank to a perfect size me.

Quite quickly though, seams unraveled and the yarn thinned at the elbows. Note to self: Don’t buy cheap cashmere sweaters. They will 1 cost more for someone else who don’t get paid and work 8 days a week, 2 break and 3 need mending (which is kind of fun but not the point of buying the sweater in the first place).

Preparing

I had already mended the elbow and now it was time to take care of the hole at the underarm. Securing the hole on the darning mushroom with the elastic band was a bit fiddly since the hole was rather large. But after a few trials I got it reasonably centered.

I used handspun yarns for the patch – a pink and orange wool/silk blend that I had got as a gift at some point. It is one of the first yarns I ever spun on a supported spindle and a dear memory.

Warping and weaving

After having sewn a security seam at the bottom of the hole, I sew the bottom end of the warp threads below the security thread and placed the top ends around the hooks. The width of the hooks make the shed possible. By sliding your finger across the loops the shed will change. One of the ingenious parts of this invention. I made a stitch in the sweater after each shuttling.

Finishing

When I got to the top of the warp the weaving got a bit fiddly, but with a little patience and good glasses it worked out. After having removed the warp loops from the hooks I stitched each loop individually in the fabric and wove in the ends on the wrong side.

Using the mending apparatus was a lot of fun. I have lots of holes to practice with. Dan is also keen to use it. I will definitely mend by hand too, but options are always welcome. And as all cultural heritages, tools techniques need to be used and handed down to future generations.

Mend with love and your clothes will keep you warm.

Mend your clothes with love and pride. I do. I see thin spots under the other arm. Perhaps I will take the mending machine for a second dance later today. I do have the same yarn in yellow and green too.

Happy mending!

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.
  • Read the new book Knit (spin) Sweden! by Sara Wolf. I am a co-author and write in the fleece section about how I spin yarn from Swedish sheep breeds.
  • 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.

Weaving with the trees

Photo by dan Waltin

Today, on one of the darkest days in my hemisphere I give you a new video from the other side of the year: Weaving with the trees. I shot the video in the northernmost part of Swedish Lappland in the beginning of July when the sun never set.

This video is my season’s gift to you: Weaving with the trees, with love from me. May it bring you light, space and peace.

Turning the train around

We had plans to take the train to Austria this year. But in March we realized that it wouldn’t be possible. Instead we turned the rails 180 degrees and went 18 hours north, to Abisko, 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. Situated by the foot of mount Nuolja it is the perfect starting point for hikers southward on the 400 kilometer Kungsleden trail. We chose to stay at the tourist station and take day trips, though. I packed my backpack with the essentials – emergency snack (Notnüsse, a family tradition of mixed nuts and seeds for energy dips), hat, hiking boots, loom and spindles.

The landscape

Before I dive into the wool and the weaving I need to give you at least the chance to understand the vastness of this landscape. This is so far north from where I live – when the train made a short stop in Boden, at the top of the Bothnian Bay, there were still 5 hours left to go!

You can start your hike straight off the platform at Abisko Tourist station train station. During that whole week we traveled by rail and hiking boots only – we walked from our house to the metro, took the metro to Stockholm Central Station and the train to Abisko.

I'm drinking the water straight from the stream with a Kuksa, hand made by Bengt Waldemarsson and gifted from me to my husband for his birthday. Photo by Dan Waltin
I’m drinking the water straight from the stream with a Kuksa, hand made from a birch burl by Bengt Waldemarsson and gifted from me to my husband for his birthday. The mittens are my handspun and two-end knitted Heartwarming mitts. Photo by Dan Waltin

When you get to Abisko all you see is the vast mountain landscape to the south, lake Torneträsk to the north and more mountains in Sweden and Norway to the northwest. The river Abiskojåkka runs lively from the mountains down to the lake. A bit south-east the U-shaped Lapporten (The Lapponian gate) rises like a queen in the valley.

So, now that you have some idea of the set you may get a feeling of what spinning and weaving with simple tools with endless opportunities this close to nature can feel like. For me, crafting in nature brings me closer to the tools, the craft and the people who craft before, beside and after me.

Rain shadow

The tourist station is situated on the leeway side of mount Nuolja with its rich summer flora. This means that the wind comes from the windward side in the west and the mountain stops the rain from falling on the Abisko side. The phenomenon is called rain shadows and is the reason why Abisko has very few rain days per year (around 300 mm of rain per year while Riksgränsen, 30 km to the west, has roughly 1600).

The trees

In the valleys and up to the tree limit there is basically one kind of tree – the Fjällbjörk, Arctic downy birch. The black and white stems grow in groups of low, gnarly, windswept stems, showcasing their crispy green leaves under the blue sky. The mass effect of these humble fjällbjörk forests is just mesmerizing. There is an enchanted touch to this black-white-green mass and I keep looking for signs of forest beings peeping out from behind one of the stems.

Above the tree limit there are still birches, but not really trees. The mountain is covered in a rich flora, mixed with dwarf birch, dvärgbjörk. The Dwarf birch doesn’t look like a tree or even a bush. Just twigs on the ground, sprinkled with the tiniest green wave-edged leaves. Where the arctic downy birch can’t stand against the arctic winds, the dwarf birch and the flowers can. I love those low, fiercely strong plants that are designed to endure the most extreme elements. I guess you can see their relatives on any mountain.

The wool

I started spinning this yarn a couple of years ago. The wool comes from a Norwegian crossbred, NKS. I have teased the wool by hand and spun it on Andean pushkas straight off the hand teased rovings. To the best of my ability I tried to spin and ply the way Andean spinners spin their yarn. I have watched Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez teach Linda Ligon how to spin the Andean way in the video Andean spinning.

Making. 2-ply yarn from a figure-8 skein by the river Abiskojåkka. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Making. 2-ply yarn from a figure-8 skein by the river Abiskojåkka. Photo by Dan Waltin.

If you want to dive more into how I spun this yarn you can watch my video Learning Andean spinning. You can also read the blog post about the video.

The yarn

I wanted to play with different colours and spinning directions in the yarn. Also, I figured that spinning with both hands would decrease the risk of straining my neck and shoulders. Therefore I alternated between S-plied and Z-plied yarn: I did all clockwise spinning with my right hand and all counter-clockwise spinning with my left hand to always pull the spindle. You can read my thoughts about pushing and pulling the spindle and spinning direction in this blog post. You can also check out my webinar Spindle ergonomics to see what I mean.

So, when I had spun the skeins in two different directions I dyed the yarn and planned the weave. I played with opposing twist directions throughout the striped sequence until I found something I liked. Warping was a challenge, but well worth the time and effort.

Sticking to it

Since I have hand-teased this wool as the only preparation the fibers aren’t as neatly arranged as if I would have processed it with tools. Ends are sticking out here and there. When I weave on a warp-faced weave the warp threads are naturally very close to each other. Using this yarn for such a tight sett led to a very sticky warp. Even if I try to do the process as closely as I can to how I understand Andean spinners do it, some things can’t be the same, especially when I use my local wool. I just had to deal with the sticky warp, spend many hours unsticking warp layers and stick (!) to my plan. To my surprise only one warp thread broke during the entire weaving process.

What yo see in the video are the short sections where I just insert the batten after having manually unstuck the warp threads. I saw no point of showing you the endless fiddling with my shortcomings.

Sources

To get closer to the technique and the textile traditions of the Andes, I bought the beautiful book Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. The book has excellent tutorials of some of the techniques. The eye-pattern tubular bands and borders is one example. As I mentioned I also took the class Andean spinning by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. I took an online course by Kimberly Hamill and later I also bought ebooks on pick-up techniques and the eye-pattern tubular band by Laverne Waddington.

Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez is a beautiful book that explains the traditions of Andean backstrap weaving and has several step-by-step tutorials with pictures.
Secrets of spinning, weaving and knitting in the Peruvian highlands by Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez is a beautiful book that explains the traditions of Andean backstrap weaving and has several step-by-step tutorials with pictures.

Weaving with the trees

Backstrap weaving is practiced in many different cultures across the world. I love the portability of the loom as well as the many traditions and weaving techniques associated with it.

With backstrap weaving the weaver is a part of the loom together with the tree. Many weavers sit while they weave. I prefer standing since I feel it gives me more fine tune control of the tension of the warp. My kids, in the background (dressed in mosquito net head covers), found a climate research location. Photo by dan Waltin.
With backstrap weaving the weaver is a part of the loom together with the tree. Many weavers sit while they weave. I prefer standing since I feel it gives me more fine tune control of the tension of the warp. My kids, in the background (dressed in mosquito net head covers), found a climate research location. Photo by dan Waltin.

Being a part of the loom

The idea of being a part of the loom together with a tree is truly fascinating. Being a part of the loom makes my body understand the rhythm of the weaving better than when I am detached from the loom. I like to compare it to spindles and spinning wheels: When I spin on a spindle – of any kind – I am a part of the mechanics of the spinning. Therefore I can understand and control the spinning better than if I were spinning on a spinning wheel where those mechanics are built-in in the spinning wheel.

Standing while weaving with the trees has downsides when it comes to dropping loom parts or tools, especially when weaving on a cliff. Photo by Dan Waltin
Standing while weaving with the trees has downsides when it comes to dropping loom parts or tools, especially when weaving on a cliff. Photo by Dan Waltin

I prefer standing when I weave on a backstrap loom. I feel it gives me more fine tune control of the tension of the warp. It also feels more flexible than sitting. A downside to weaving standing is that the ground is further away if (when) I drop things. Usually I bring a shoulder bag with the essentials for easy access.

Gratitude

I am, and will keep being, a novice at backstrap weaving. Still, I have learned so much about this craft that is as humble as it is magnificent, as simple as it is complex. And all between just a few hand-carved sticks. And I am truly grateful for the time and space I get to spend with and in the weaving.

I shot the video with my iPhone and a light tripod. Photo by dan Waltin
I shot the video with my iPhone and a lightweight tripod. Photo by dan Waltin

Thank you. sweet followers, for another year of spinning, teaching and learning. Your support, your progress and your spinning stories all give me energy and sparkle to keep creating for you.

Waiting for the train back home to Stockholm. Basswood weaving sword by Verena Soe, Yarnengineer, on Instagram, juniper band lock by Spångmurs.

The week in Abisko ended far too quickly. I am not finished with this place. There are so many things to discover, so many places to craft. I will come back. After all, it’s just an 18 hour train ride from home.

Back home I finished the striped weave and the band. I wove an eye-pattern tubular band around the weave to protect the edges. I sewed the band onto the striped piece and attached D-rings for closure. And voilá, I had myself a wrap for my loom sticks.

I made a wrap to keep all my various sizes of hand carved loom sticks warm and in order. I found the band pattern in Laverne Waddington's book Complementary-warp pick-up. The tubular eye-pattern edging around the wrap has different names in different regions in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
I made a wrap to keep all my various sizes of hand carved loom sticks warm and in order. I used a band pattern from Laverne Waddington’s book Complementary-warp pick-up. The tubular eye-pattern edging around the wrap has different names in different regions in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.

Support Andean textile artists

I make a monthly donation to the Center for traditional textiles of Cusco. If you want to support the textile traditions of the Andes you can donate. Andean weavers are facing multiple difficulties due to the consequences of the pandemic. The center also has an online shop where you can buy beautiful hand made items like bags, purses, hats, shawls etc.

Happy spinning!


You can find me in several social media:

  1. 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.
  2. My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  3. I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow me there.
  4. I run an online spinning school, welcome to join a course! You can also check out my course page for courses in Sweden.
  5. 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.
  6. Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts, share images from behind the scenes and post lots of woolliness.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

A warping meditation

Sometimes I loose myself in the crafting moment. The senses take over like a force of nature and guide me through my process, sweetly, mindfully. My fingers know what to do and still they experience every movement and every sensation as if for the first time. I had one of those sweet moment the other day while I was warping. So today I give you a warping meditation.

I have just come back from a morning swim in the pale morning sun. It is early November and the trees still have some yellow and red leaves on their branches. Heaps of leaves in all shades of red, yellow and brown are scattered over the ground, inviting, enticing. The musky autumn smells swirl around me, whispering sweet autumnal hymns in my ears.

A warp in waiting

Meanwhile, eight skeins of handspun Gute yarn are waiting in the book shelf. My plan is to weave a loose sett and full the finished fabric into a sturdy wadmal cloth. I decide today is Warping Day. Usually I warp longer projects at the local weaver’s guild, but due to the pandemic I don’t want to put the elderly ladies in the guild at risk. The sun is warm on our terrace and that will be my warping zone.

Five skeins of grey yarn.
2-ply Gute yarn, waiting to be put to use.

The whispers of a fleece

As I grab one of the skeins I immediately feel the soft and safe message from the lanolin in the yarn. The smell, the touch and the soft colours take me back to the staples I processed just a few weeks ago. Strong, light and rustic. It also reminds me of the Gute sheep that gave me the wool. I received the gift of wool and it is now my mission to make the strengths of the fleece justice as a textile.

Close-up of two mittened hands holding a skein of grey yarn. Yellow autumn leaves on the ground.
Strong outercoat, soft undercoat and brittle kemp fibers in my 2-ply woolen spun Gute yarn.

I look at the skein in my hand and see the different fiber types – the long and strong outercoat, some fibers finer and some coarser. Soft, soft undercoat in sparkling silvery white. Rough and short kemp fibers that point in a direction of their own choice. I know that a majority of the kemp fibers will fall out of the yarn as I weave, leaving air pockets, making the cloth warmer and softer.

A warping setup on a terrace. A woman dressed in jacket, hat and half-mitts is warping.
A sunny terrace in November is a splendid substitute for a weaving room.

Warping in the November sun

I bring my tools out to the terrace, secure the warping peg and mount the umbrella swift on the fence. The skein on the swift sparkles in all its glorious shades of grey, turning round and round on my command as I feed the yarn to the hungry warp.

Close-up of a warping outdoors.
Thread by thread I build the skeleton of the weave in a warping meditation..

A warping meditation

The yarn goes through my hands over and over again, just as it has many times before during sorting, washing, carding and spinning. The strand in my hand leaves a touch of its wooly magic, like a gentle puff of lanolin and sheephood on my fingers. Inch by inch my fingers attentively follow the thread, from the loom, through the slot of the heddle, around the warping peg and back again.

I own this yarn. My hands made it and through the many hours of processing and spinning they know every fiber of it. Yet, it keeps teaching me new things every time I touch it and it will probably keep teaching me through its career as a fabric, on levels I don’t yet know will exist.

Close-up of a person pulling warp yarn through the slots of a rigid heddle. The person is wearing half-mitts.
Following the warp threads back and forth between the loom and the warping peg makes me present in the moment, like a warping meditation.

Thread by thread I build the frame of the warp, the very skeleton which I will dress, one shuttling after another, with woolen layers. My hands giggle as they touch the surface of this scaffold in the making. As I walk mindfully back and forth with the warp yarn in the shy November sun I remember that the Gute sheep I work with is an outdoor sheep, it stays outdoors all year round. Even the name is an acronym for the very outdooriness of the breed – Gotland outdoor sheep (Gotländskt Utegångsfår). I smile and hope the yarn enjoys being in some way in its natural habitat.

When I have reached the last slot of the heddle I smile at my newborn warp. I wonder what will become of it, how we will work together and what it will teach me next. As I go back inside I thank the sun with its pale rays for their warmth and comfort.

A sun salutation

This time of year I follow the sun – from the gentle sparkles accompanying me on my early morning swim, through the warm morning and mid-day sun by the spinning wheel in the living room and to the afternoon gold-pink-red transformation in my home office.

After a soup lunch I see the loom standing against the book shelf as I leave the kitchen. I can’t help myself and decide to start weaving, just a little bit. The rhythm of dressing the heddle is mesmerizing – Slot, hole, slot, hole all the way to the end. I tie the warp bundles onto the warp beam and feel for irregular tension with my fingers, eyes closed. I lift the heddle and the first shed is born. As new sheds are created between the shuttled weft threads I feel them again – the soft rays, on the side of my face. The sun has rounded the house and reached the office where I weave.

A woman weaving on a rigid heddle loom by a sunny window.
After lunch the sun has reached the other side of the house, where my home office is.

I finish today’s session and put the loom back agains the book shelf. Looking down on the floor I see little heaps of kemp fibers that have decided to leave the yarn and seek their own adventure, just as I anticipated. A new chapter of the weaving journey has begun and I cherish every second of it.

Happy spinning!


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.

Frida Chanel bag

The Frida Chanel field belt bag. Photo by Dan Waltin

A project that I have been working on for a long time is finally finished – the Frida Chanel bag. The bag is woven on a backstrap loom from outercoat yarn spun on a suspended spindle. Frida and Chanel are the two ewes that gave me the wool.

The Frida Chanel bag project has gone slowly but steadily through winter, spring and summer. It has lived through office meetings, sheep festivals and the corona crisis. So many experiences fit in the resulting field belt bag. In this post I walk you through the process from fluff to stuff.

The Frida Chanel bag is comfortable to war across my hip, either to the front or to the back. Photo by Dan Waltin
The Frida Chanel bag is comfortable to war across my hip, either to the front or to the back. Photo by Dan Waltin

The sheep

The wool in the yarn comes from the outercoat from two fleece championships contestants – one Åsen/Härjedal crossbred lamb and one Klövsjö ewe. They are both perfect warp candidates with long, strong and shiny outercoat fibers.

Chanel

I got Chanel on the 2017 Swedish spinning championships. She got a gold medal and rightfully so. It wasn’t for sale, though. The shepherdess didn’t want to part with it. She isn’t a spinner herself, though, and she realized that no spinning mill would do the colour variations justice. I talked to her and she decided to sell it to me.

Chanel's fleece divided into colour piles.
Chanel’s fleece divided into colour piles.

I divided the fleece into colour piles and spun each of the lovely colours separately. After some trial and error I landed in separating undercoat from outercoat and spin the fiber types separately. This way I was able to make both wool and colours justice.

Frida

If found Frida’s fleece at the 2019 Swedish fleece championships. She didn’t win any medals, but she was still so beautiful and I really needed to take her home with me. She has the most incredible shine!

The Klövsjö ewe Frida's beautiful fleece.
The Klövsjö ewe Frida’s beautiful fleece.

The yarns

With Chanel’s outercoat I ended up with five colours of brown, from solid chocolate, through dark and light coffee swirls to a frappuccino.

Five colours of the Åsen/Härjedal lamb Chanel's outer coat.
Five colours of the Åsen/Härjedal lamb Chanel’s outer coat.

I have been spinning Chanel’s combed outercoat tops on a suspended spindle on coffee breaks and meetings at work. Through the soft feeling of the fibers I have been able to filter the coffee break chatter and focus on the content of the office meetings.

I treated Frida’s fleece the same way I had treated Chanel’s – I separated outercoat from undercoat and spun them separately. When I got to spin Frida’s combed top it was already March and the government urged everybody who could to work from home, so I have spun Frida’s outercoat yarn at digital meetings and coffee breaks from my home.

The Klövsjö ewe Frida's outercoat spindle spun into a strong and shiny warp yarn.
The Klövsjö ewe Frida’s outercoat spindle spun into a strong and shiny warp yarn.

I decided to dye the Frida outercoat yarn in two shades of blue. I used the same dye base as the yarn for my weaving bag, but for some reason it turned out green instead. They are still lovely colours and I did get the difference in shade I was after.

Finished yarns from Chanel (brown shades) and Frida (dyed green). Spindle spun and hand wound with love. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Finished yarns from Chanel (brown shades) and Frida (dyed green). Spindle spun and hand wound with love. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Colour play

When all the yarns were finished I had a wonderful weaving yarn treasure to play with. I wanted the stripes to be in different widths and I wanted to pair dark colours with light. In the end I decided on using two gradients – one brown and one green (if you can call two colours a gradient) – going in different directions. I added a section with horizontal stripes in the middle. I messed up with the calculations here, though. The horizontal stripes should have been twice as wide but my head obviously wasn’t with me all the way in the warping.

Being able to build my weave and my loom is such a wonderful feeling of empowerment. I made that pattern from my own yarn. I set up that loom (that is mostly my own carving) to fit my yarns.

A sticky business

Weaving with this. yarn has been a very sticky business. The warp threads have been tremendously clingy and in the beginning I was wondering if I would ever see this weave finished. But the beauty of weaving with your handspun yarns is that it simply has to work out. I need to find ways to make it work. I have invested too much love in this project for it to go down the drain.

To come around the clinging warp threads I tried different sizing methods. My friend Cecilia made herself my guinea pig and tried brushing the warp with gelatine, which worked to some extent for her test warp. I brushed mine with flax seed infusion and later hair spray to make the warp threads stiffer and more protected against the frequent abrasion of a warp-faced weave.

I think the sizing helped to some extent, but the warp was still very sticky. After a while I decided to develop a more mechanical solution – instead of opening up the shed as one movement I declung the warp section by section for each new shed. This way it took me about five minutes to weave two rows and it wasn’t that mindful process that continuous weaving is. But it worked. And once I had accepted the fact that this was the way I was going to weave this project I did find some sort of mindfulness in that too.

In the lime-tree alley

When I worked with the weaving bag and Dan’s camera strap I set up my loom under a spare lime-tree in the lime-tree alley that leads to our house. It is perfectly backstrap loom sized and has a nice view of the park. It has been lovely to weave in this spot and see the spring unfold into summer. My weaves have grown with the grass and the leaves. These past few weeks with this weave the grass has been waist-high and the branches heavy with fully developed leaves.

The last part of June was really hot – around 30 degrees Celsius. My crankiness limit is at 25 degrees so it was way too hot for me. But standing under that lime-tree weaving was such a perfect activity in the heat. I got the shade I needed and some wind. And when the sun broke through the leves I could just move a few steps around the tree to get into the shadow again.

Come to think of it, the colours of the weave reflects the colours of the lime-tree. The browns are the trunk, the dark green the leaves and the light green the sweet flowers. This weave was meant to be woven together with a lime-tree!

A field belt

Sometimes I obsess about things. One of my latest obsessions is the sewing patterns from Merchant & Mills. They have lovely clothes patterns and some bags. I was particularly attached to the Field belt bag. I had finally decided to buy the kit and put it in my shopping cart when it dawned on me: I wasn’t going to buy the kit – I was going to weave the fabric myself! I’m not sure when in the process I got this idea, but probably around March when I started spinning Frida’s outercoat.

Sewing and assembling

The pattern I used for the Frida Chanel bag is simple. A lined pouch with a folded top. A belt goes through a channel at the back for wearing the belt around your hips.

I had to make some adjustments for my handwoven fabric, but mostly the sewing was quite straightforward. I didn’t use a seam allowance for the side seams. Instead I sewed the selvedges together with a figure-8 stitch. That way I lost no width on the sides. And the figure-8 seam is really pretty.

A simple figure-8 stitch closes the selvedges at the side seam. No extra fabric was wasted here. Photo by Dan Waltin
A simple figure-8 stitch closes the selvedges at the side seam. No extra fabric was wasted here. Photo by Dan Waltin

The rivets were tricky, though. I didn’t want to punch the rivets through the woven fabric. I was afraid the warp threads would sneak their way out of the weave. Again I consulted my friend Cecilia. She suggested reinforcing the weave with wood glue (fancy that!) and put extra leather on each side of the weave for the rivets to hold on to. I did this, and managed to push the rivets between the warp threads so that none of them broke.

The leather belt goes through a channel at the back of the bag. Underneath the leather strap for the closing you can see one of the extra pieces of leather I used to reinforce the holes for the rivets and protect the woven fabric. Photo by Dan Waltin.
The leather belt goes through a channel at the back of the bag. Underneath the leather strap for the closing you can see one of the extra pieces of leather I used to reinforce the holes for the rivets and protect the woven fabric. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Lining

Another obsession this spring has been vintage fabrics. I use them to line things. When you open a bag or a spindle case I think it is only fair that you find a scrumtious and decadent lining, don’t you? I chose a flowery upholstery fabric that gave me that tingling feeling I was looking for. I added a nifty bellows pocket in the lining for easy access to important things.

Every bag needs a scrumptious lining! In this case a vintage upholstery fabric I got from Swedish e-Bay. Photo by Dan Waltin.
Every bag needs a scrumptious lining! In this case a vintage upholstery fabric I got from Swedish e-Bay. Photo by Dan Waltin.

Frida Chanel bag

So, this week I finally finished the bag. I love the freedom of wearing it around my waist and the safe feeling of wool at my hip. When I wear it I have the company of the sweet wool providers Frida and Chanel. The shine of the fabric is luscious.

A working period of five months is over. The bag may be small but it contains two sheep, three seasons, a pandemic, work, pleasure and trees. That is a lot to carry for a small bag. But it was made with love and somehow fits it all.


I just started a six week vacation. I will post, but shorter pieces. There will be a lot of crafting during my vacation that I can write about in the fall!

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.
  • 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.

Camera strap

During a few weeks this spring I have been secretly weaving a camera strap for my husband Dan. He takes all the photos for my magazine articles and a lot of photos for my blog. His birthday was this week and I was finally able to give it to him.

Dan is test shooting with nis new camera strap.
Dan is test shooting with his new camera strap.

For his birthday last year I wanted to get him a camera strap from Textiles Cusco, a cooperative of Peruvian weavers that I support. In the end it didn’t work out since I didn’t have the credit card type they accepted. Little did I know then that I would fall into the backstrap weaving rabbit hole before his birthday this year!

The yarns

In the online course in backstrap weaving I took this spring I totally failed the pebble weave pick-up pattern module. My yarn was way too loosely spun and in colours with too little contrast. I wanted to make up for my questionable decisions and weave a strap in a pick-up pattern.

For this project I chose the white and blue yarns I used for the weaving bag I had just finished. I did run the yarns through the spinning wheel again, though, to give them some more twist. In the balanced weave they had been a bit fuzzy and a higher twist would make them stronger, especially considering they would be in a tight warp-faced project.

The participating hand spun yarns in the camera strap.

For the kind of pick-up technique I chose it is a good idea to use three colours – two with high contrast for the pick-up pattern and a third for the edges. The black yarn I chose for the edges comes from a sample bag of a Gotland/finull cross that I got from a shepherdess recently. I tried to prepare and spin it in the same way I had spun the white and blue yarns – hand combed and worsted spun on a spinning wheel and 2-plied with some extra twist. The black yarn turned out a little less elastic though.

The weaving

The strap was only 65 cm long and 4 cm wide, so even if pick-up patterns take time it would still be doable before his birthday. I bought an ebook for a different kind of two-faced pick-up pattern by Laverne Waddington. I wanted the pattern I loved the most and not necessarily the one that was the easiest. In the end I chose one with heart shapes over 16 warp pairs and 32 rows. A lot to keep track of, but I pinned the pattern onto the warp for easy access.

A lovely heart-shaped pattern over the stretch of the camera strap.

Pick-up pattern

In this kind of pick-up pattern you work with warp pairs with one thread of each colour in every pair. When warping for the pick-up part you warp with one colour in the top and one in the bottom. This is to keep track of the colours and pairs. In the pattern you pick up one thread for each pair every row. This results in a pattern that is inverted on the “wrong” side.

Picking up the warp threads for the pick-up pattern. I need to pick up each individual warp thread in a new combination every row for the 32 row repeat. The heddle yarn in the top of the picture is my handspun and cable plied in Gute lamb’s wool.

I use a stick to pick up my warp threads with. In the picture above the blue warp threads are on top. Picking up the blue threads is no problem. When I need to pick up a white thread I need to pick up this from the bottom (white) layer and make sure I don’t pick up the blue thread in that pair.

The camera strap takes shape in the Stockholm spring sun. In the picture I have picked up all the warp threads for the row and inserted the batten in the new shed, ready to beat.

When I have finished picking up the row I place my batten in the picked-up shed and beat. Next row I pick up a new set of warp threads for a new shed. When I have picked up all the rows in the 32 row pattern I start from the beginning again.

I really loved this technique and I will do it again. It doesn’t take much yarn, but the result is so lovely and the fact that I made it makes me all giddy.

Narrow strap

The strap with the pick-up pattern is the part that goes over the shoulder of the photographer. I also needed to make a narrower strap to fasten to the camera. This was just a plain 1 cm wide warp-faced band. I used a band lock instead of the front beam and I didn’t bother with a stick for the heddles. Instead I used a piece of string to hold the heddles. To change the shed I simply lifted the heddles in the string loop.

I used a band lock for the narrow band instead of the wider front loom bar. Also I used a piece of string to hold the heddles instead of a stick. The band lock is made in juniper wood and smells oh so lovely.

The camera strap

Assembling the camera strap was a bit more of a challenge than I had expected. The original strap joined the wide and the narrow straps with a fake leather patch on both sides. I did the same, only with real leather. I used two waxed linen threads simultaneously for a double running stitch. The first strap join was really difficult and fiddly to make. I broke two needles and had sore fingers for a few days afterwards. The leather join looked really crooked and sad. For the other leather join I pre-punched the needle holes which made sewing a lot easier.

All assembled and ready to shoot!
All assembled and ready to shoot!

I decided to pick up the first join and make it better, which was a good decision. I would have been annoyed with the crooked join if I hadn’t. The second time I could use the old needle holes and the sewing went much smoother.

The camera strap sits nicely over the shoulder.
The camera strap sits nicely over the shoulder.

The black edges of the strap are a bit wavy because the black yarn has less elasticity than the blue yarn. But it isn’t a problem, it just adds to the hand made feeling.

Test shooting some grass in the evening light.
Test shooting some grass in the evening light.

I really loved making these straps. The pattern took a long time but the result is so lovely. And making the narrower strap felt surprisingly good. I enjoyed having the knowledge to weave the band so narrow. The yarns worked very well in the project, especially since I had added extra twist.

Dan loves his new camera strap. Last night he went out for a photo shoot – grass in backlight – and it went so much better than with the original camera strap. Fancy that!

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.
  • 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.

A fleece meditation

“I have a fleece from my young ewe Elin that I think you should have”, said Claudia, a shepherdess of Swedish Gestrike sheep. This happens every now and then. One of the advantages of being known in the spinning world is that shepherdesses trust me with their fleeces and they are curious of what I make of them. In this post I dive deep into the fibers in a fleece meditation.

The ladies and the elements

Claudia and I have met a few times since then but life has happened and the fleece stayed with Claudia. A global crisis came in the way. Eventually and with a little (or a lot) help from a friend Claudia managed to get the fleece to me. Claudia’s friend Kristina – also a spinner – was going to Stockholm where she studies and Claudia asked me if I could meet Kristina outside her school. Of course, I said. The bike ride would do me good.

So, we settled on a Tuesday in the end of April. I imagined a lovely bike ride through town, crisp birch leaves and cherry blossom edging the bike path and the fresh spring air welcoming my face in its midst. As it turned out, it was one of the most dramatic days of spring, weather wise – grinning rain, hail and icy winds had Stockholm in a firm grip, playing with its tousled inhabitants. The birches and the cherry trees were still there of course, but not in the atmosphere I had imagined. Still, a fleece was waiting for me and there wasn’t much I could do.

Embracing the hail as good as I could muster I hopped on the bike and pedaled my way in to town in sheer determination. I met Kristina, chatted for a while and went home with the fleece in the bike bag. An hour and 17 kilometers after I had left home I was back again. A bit cold, a bit wet, but richer in fleece and fresh air.

A raw fleece in dirty black and white.
The raw fleece from the Gestrike ewe Elin forms the beginning of a fleece meditation.

A bath

The fleece of the Gestrike sheep Elin is now in our house, filling the house with the soft smell of sheep and the promise of hours of gentle touch, creative work and new experiences.

Before I put Elin in the washtub I balanced her on the scales. 1,7 kilos, quite a large fleece for a Swedish heritage breed. I assumed some of the weight would wash out with the soaking water.

Soak

I filled the washtub with warm water in the bathroom – it is still a bit too cold to soak wool outdoors. As I gently pressed the sticky fleece down into the tub the water streamed up from underneath, found its path between the fibers, pressing the abruptly awoken dirt out of the staples and into the gushing water, creating reddish brown whirls which slowly shaped echoes of the locks.

A girl should have her privacy in the bath, so I left her in the tub for around fifteen minutes. When I came back I could hardly see her anymore. Gone was the clear water and the brown whirls. All that was left was a luke warm sea the colour of yesterday’s coffee with a few floating islands of wet wool lurking by the surface like frogs waiting for juicy flies. Between the islands were accumulations of soapy foam created by the union of the salty suint and the warm water.

Rinse

I gently squeezed the water out of the heavy water-saturated wool mass and filled the tub with fresh water. I repeated the process three more times, brown whirls fading slightly for each new soak. By the third rinse the water was clear and the wet locks distinctly visible in the tub, black and white staples shining like herrings in a school.

Spin-dry

After another squeeze I moved the shapeless wad into the washing machine to spin-dry it. Fifteen minutes later I opened the drum and was presented a bursting cloud of wool all the way up to the edge. Gone was the pile of sticky staples. Instead I saw before me an airy muchness of creative prospectives, inviting me to explore them.

A clean fleece in black and white.
Elin’s fleece is now clean an a lot lighter.

When I weighed the fleece again I was shocked of the number the pointer stayed at – 1,2 kilos. Gone were 500 grams of lanolin, sweat salts and short bits of fiber. My fleece was freed of half a kilo of gunk that I happily donated to the garden beds as fertilizer. My heart sings of the prospect of a flax harvest invigourated by dirty wool soak.

The fibers

Most of the staples had proud, gently waved outercoat, collected like the straws in a paint brush and air-filled hoopskirt undercoat, ready to embrace anyone who needed their warmth.

Black and white wool staples.
A few members of the Elin dance company.

Outercoat

The fibers are bundled up together to bring protection to the sheep. Some of the strands are long, proud and glistening, aspiring for length to protect the sheep from rain. I close my eyes and imagine the clusters of outercoat almost taking aim at the falling drops, competing about being the team to lead the wet intruder away from the body they have been set to protect.

Separated wool staples.
Dissected staples of Elin’s fleece – a whole staple, outercoat and undercoat.

Undercoat

Other fibers are fine, winding their way through the fiber collective, changing directions unpredictably, forming a billowing multitude of soft warmth to keep the wind and cold at bay. Together with air they fulfill their task with gentle determination.

Kemp

A third kind of fiber can be seen occasionally. Black, brittle and sprawly. This is the kemp, the oddball in the family. The kemp works with the other fibers, keeping the staple upright for additional protection against the elements and allowing more air to enter their fibery togetherness.

A microscope picture of wool fibers.
Strong and straight outercoat, fine and winding undercoat and coarse and brittle kemp, all working together to create the best conditions possible for the sheep.

The fibers look and work differently, yet in cooperation to protect the sheep they once grew on.

A fleece meditation: If I were a sheep

If I think of myself as the sheep the fibers are assigned to protect, how would I arrange them to do the same for me? How would I take advantage of their respective characteristics to create a garment that is for me what the fleece was to the sheep?

A staple of wool.
A fleece meditation.

Look at this picture for a moment. Long and strong outercoat, soft and warm undercoat. That means something. These fibers can be prepared, spun and arranged to their advantage and to give me the best protection. Soft, winding undercoat carefully carded into a pillowy rolag, kemp occasionally peaking out. Long and strong outercoat combed parallel into a bird’s nest.

A combed top and a rolag.
The beginning of the journey to a new textile. Outercoat and undercoat separated and processed.

When I close my eyes and feel a staple of Elin’s carefully selected wool in my hands I sense the different characteristics of the fibers. I envision a woven textile. In my mind I see the strong outercoat fibers as warp and the soft undercoat as weft.

Two shuttles with yarn. One light and airy, one dark and sleek.
Warp and weft. Separated but still together.

A dream of twill

I see twill. Fine singles, winding their way across the fabric. On one side the outercoat dominates – three over, one under – protecting me from the falling rain. The other side soft from the undercoat, keeping me warm and safe, kemp making sure there is room for air. Perhaps the fabric is slightly fulled to protect me even further. The two sides have different superpowers and different colours.

A woven twill sample.
A baby swatch, full of possibilities, waiting to grow into a mature fabric.

Claudia tells me that one of her ewes has a lot less outercoat than the rest of the flock. This sheep prefers to stay protected under a spruce when it rains while the downpour doesn’t bother her sisters. I want to be able to stand in the rain like the sheep, protected from the elements by an ingenious design that has worked for millennia.

A white wool staple with tips pointing in different directions.
The processing of Elin’s fleece could go in many different directions.

Eventhough the fibers in my textile would be disassembled and put together again in just one of many fashions, they would still work together. Their novel composition for a two-legged creature would still serve the same purpose: To keep me protected.

Meanwhile, Elin is generously growing a new fleece that shields her and that can be harvested again.

Stay safe and 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.
  • 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.

Weaving bag

Last week I wrote about my adventures with backstrap weaving and the online course in backstrap weaving I have been taking this spring. In this post I present the final assignment in the course – a woven bag.

Weaving a weaving bag

The assignment for the fifth and last module in the course was to weave a bag made of a warp-faced strap and a balance weave cloth to fold into the body and flap of the bag.

A smiling woman wearing a shoulder bag across her torso. The bag is blue and has fringes.
I’m very happy with my finished weaving bag. Dan was equally happy with the evening light. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The yarn I used was a 2-plied worsted yarn from combed tops of a Norwegian crossbred, NKS. I spun the yarn a few years ago and it has been waiting for a project ever since. Before I warped I dyed three skeins of the six I had.

A weaving bag to fit all the necessary weaving equipment.

Strap

Weaving the strap for the weaving bag went well. The yarn was sleek and didn’t stick, only a bit towards the end of the weave. If I had spun this yarn today and with weaving in mind I would probably have spun it with higher twist.

A backstrap loom outdoors. The project is a blue strap.
The strap is warp-faced.

Body

The instructions for the body of the weaving bag was to weave it balanced. I had done this in a previous project, but that was only 10 cm wide. This one was 23 cm wide, the widest I have woven on a backstrap loom. But I was determined to get it right and proper and after having lashed on I was very happy with the set-up.

A Backstrap Loom outdoors. The project is a wide balance weave in three sections – the edges in blue and the middle in white.
A mid section in white by necessity turned out pretty nicely.

Dyed and undyed

As I was calculating the meterage and the warping I quickly realized that I would need more yarn than I had dyed. Given the fact that dyeing is not my best skill, I didn’t dare to dye the three remaining skeins. Chances were that I would end up with a completely different colour.

One could argue that I should have dyed all six skeins at once, which I obviously hadn’t. The reason for this was that the skeins were a bit different and I picked the tree that looked most alike. And had I dyed all six skeins at once they would have been too bulky for the dyeing pot and the dye would have turned out uneven. So my solution was to add an undyed section in the mid third of the body of the bag.

Having the three sections actually helped me keep track of the warp threads and the spacing between them. The job of lashing on all the 99 warp pairs got a bit easier when I thought of them as 3×33 instead.

Heddles

I used my handspun Värmland outercoat yarn for the heddles for the strap. This was part of my contribution to the advanced category in the 2019 Swedish spinning championships.

A skein of yarn. 2-plied in natural white, grey and brown. The yarn is sleek and silky.
2-plied Värmland outercoat for heddles for the strap.

The yarn worked quite well, but there was a little warp fuzz. It could be because I had reused the yarn several times for heddles. I am new at heddle making as well, so I try to analyze and learn every time.

I didn’t have enough of the Värmland heddle yarn for the width of the body of the bag. Instead I used my contribution to the intermediate category of the same championships – a cable spun yarn from Gute lamb. Very strong, round and sleek.

A light grey silky yarn.
Cable-plied Gute lamb’s wool for heddles for the body of the bag.

The cable-plied yarn worked wonderfully as heddle yarn. It was originally spun as a sock yarn – combed, worsted spun, cable plied and with high twist. These properties worked very well for a heddle yarn.

A warp on a backstrap loom.
A long row of Gute heddles for my balanced weave.

I actually like making the heddles! Holding the heddle yarn, making lots heddles of equal size, watching the individual loops add to the long row of heddles, it really sings to me. It is a feeling of empowerment – I can make sticks and loops turn into a working loom together with myself and a tree!

Fringe

I am not a fringe fan on clothing and accessories. It is a bit too late -70’s/early -80’s for me. Remember the T-shirts with beaded sleeve fringe? I was about ten back then and I’m not particularly keen on going back. But weaving all the way to the end of the warp is an advanced and time-consuming technique that I may learn in time.

A woman wearing a woven shoulder bag.
The weaving bag fringe! Photo by Dan Waltin

Meanwhile, I have to choose between hemming and fringing. This project said fringe and so I fringed. I chose to twist my fringe to protect the yarn from wear.

Assembling

The assembling of the weaving bag is quite easy. The strap has a double function as sides of the bag. The body is folded to make out the front, bottom, back and flap.

Seams

I sewed the strap onto the body with a figure-8 seam that worked very well. The technique doesn’t require any seam allowance and is perfect for stitching selvedges together. The seam is sturdy but still discrete.

Close-up of a woven bag. The fabric is seamed together with a subtle seam.
A figure-8 seam to assemble the bag. The technique is simple – sew up through the left piece, over the edge and up through the right piece in a tight figure-8 pattern.

A decorative seam

I am very fascinated by the Andean spinning and weaving culture. To honor the textiles Andean weavers typically spend at least as much time decorating the woven textiles as they do weaving them. I wanted to do this too and decided to add a decorative seam on the bag opening.

This was the part where I had lashed on, the first few rows I wove on the body part or the third selvedge. When I looked at this selvedge it looked wavy and sloppy. I usually tell my students that your mistakes are a map of what you have learned. In this case, my map told me that I hadn’t beaten the first few rows closely enough to the loom bar.

Close-up of the opening of a bag. The edge is decorated with a seam in blue and white yarn.
My first try on a single-row Kumpay stitch to decorate and protect the bag opening.

In my vanity I thought that a decorative seam would cover the sloppiness of the edge, but of course it didn’t. But it is still a pretty seam that also protects the edge of the bag. I chose what I believe is a single-row Kumpay stitch with two colours.

Decadent rose lining

When I planned the project I suspected that the weaving bag would be somewhat sloppy without lining. Lately I have bought lots of small pieces of vintage fabrics from the Swedish e-bay for this very purpose. I seem to have fallen for bold 70’s motifs and, to my own surprise, roses. I do not like rose patterns. It is too Laura Ashley for my taste (back in the -80’s again). But I firmly believe that the hidden innards of a bag should be allowed to be a bit decadent, don’t you?

Sewing the lining with decadent roses.

I chose a study rosy rose fabric in cotton and linen from my e-bayed stash that worked well with the blue in the bag. I added two pockets in the lining – one on the side to fit emergency sticks and one in the center for pencils. There is plenty of room for other necessities like band locks, yarn, a backstrap and a bottle of water.

The inside of a bag. The bag is lined with a rosy woven fabric and contains weaving sticks and other weaving supplies.
The hidden innards of the bag is lined with decadent pink roses.

Before I stitched the lining onto the bag I added a piece of wool needle punch felt at the bottom of the lining to make the bottom of the bag a bit more stable and defined.

Happy beginner

When I started the bag project I felt confident – I knew what to do when and why. I know what parts I need to build the loom and I know how to operate the loom with my body movements. I know how to fix things when they go wrong. This has given me a lot of weaving confidence, in backstrap weaving as well as my rigid heddle loom.

I love being able to build my loom for every new project. I love being part of the loom. It helps me understand what I can do with it and how.

I am definitely an early beginner, but an independent one. After my first few projects I have the knowledge, skills and tools to realize a baby idea and create a textile at my level. I own my weaving.


Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco, Peru

Centro de textiles tradicionales del Cusco is a non-profit organization focusing on the empowerment of weavers through revitalization and sustainable practice of Peruvian ancestral textiles in the Cusco region. I support these talented textile artists. Please consider supporting them too. In these uncertain times they need financial support more than ever as they depend largely on tourism.

Happy weaving!


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.
  • 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.

If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!