Påsöm embroidery wool journey

This weekend I enjoyed the 2022 wool journey with my wool traveling club. The five members traveled from near and far to the small village of Dala-Floda where the påsöm embroidery technique has its origin and bloom. Have a peak at the påsöm embroidery wool journey!

The wool traveling club started in 2014 and had its first journey in 2015 to Shetland for Shetland wool week. Since then we find locations we can reach without flying. This was the first time all five of us could make it.

The påsöm tradition

Dala-Floda (or Floda which is the local name) is widely known for its traditional costumes and, especially for the very rich embroidery technique called påsöm. “På” means on or on top of and “söm” means seam, so a seam on top of something. The something has traditionally been broadcloth and two-end knitted items.

Our teacher for the course, Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg has a master craftsman’s diploma in embroidery. She is also very knowledgeable when it comes to the costume and textile traditions in the area. Her day job is as operation manager and antiquarian at the Dalarna museum. She also teaches påsöm embroidery, costume traditions and other textile techniques in her own business, Flodaros.

The påsöm technique is relatively modern, it came with the zephyr yarns and synthetic dyes in the mid-19th century. Embroidery was common in the area before that, but the yarns and the dyes marks a significant change in the expression of the technique. During the national romantic area women were hired as påsöm embroideresses.

A sewing hook works perfectly as a resistance to pull the stitches against.

Traditionally påsöm has not been practiced with embroidery hoops. Instead the material has simply been pinned onto the skirt of the embroideress. When I got home from the course I dug out my sewing hook that worked very nicely with the broadcloth material.

The wool traveling club took a short field trip to the Dala-Floda costume parts second hand shop. It was the sweetest shed-sized store filled to the roof with cuffs, hats, suspenders, skirt hems, baby slings, tie- on pockets, jackets and watch pockets – all parts of the traditional Dala-Floda costume.

The påsöm yarn and the stitch

The yarn typically used for påsöm is a very loosely spun 4-ply merino yarn in rich and vibrant colours. The stitch with the blooming yarn is supposed to fill out the motif and create a bulky, almost three dimensional look. As I was afraid to ruin the expression of the embroidery and as I am not a reliable dyer, I stayed away from trying to spin and dye my own påsöm yarn. I use the Flodarosyarn that Anna-Karin has dyed.

Nearly all the stitches for flowers and leaves are made in double satin stitches while the stalks and occasional borders are made in stem stitches. The surface underneath the satin stitch areas doesn’t show.

Her royal Mossiness, queen of the conifer forest.

Sewing the airy 4-ply yarn with the double satin stitch results in a spongy, cushiony surface, like a patch of moss on a spruce stump in a newly rained conifer forest. I want to stop and gently soak my hands in it, greet and smell its royal mossiness, just like I do when I do get to the forest and find that sweet mossy spruce stump.

Transferring the pattern

There is a set of flowers and leaves that have traditionally been used for påsöm embroideries. Anna-Karin had made both templates and stencils for us to play with and find a composition that worked with the påsöm expression and the embroidered item.

Anna-Karin shows us a way to sketch the winding stalks and the position of the flowers. Then she plays with templates of different flowers to build the bouquet.

A wool surface can be very fuzzy in the world of a pen and difficult to stick to. Anna-Karin showed us how to first make a sketch on the surface and refine it with an erasable pen. Once we felt happy with the composition and placement we could mark the final pattern and inside lines with a permanent pen.

The påsöm nitty-gritty

Påsöm has its foundation in a winding flower stalk. All the leaves, buds and flowers have a relation to that stalk, making the impression of a bouquet of flowers. The flowers – like dahlias, roses, pansies and lilies of the valley – usually have several colours. Sometimes a tinting technique is used to create the transition between darker and lighter.

A main flower and winding stems make out the motif of my tie-on pocket. I will probably push in more leaves to create even more abundance in the bouquet.

The motif fills out as much as possible of the surface (usually broadcloth) to create an abundance. Lots of reds and pinks together with the leafy greens, but sometimes also blues and purples and perhaps accentuating yellows and whites.

The projects

I had several ideas for påsöm embroidery. The one I picked for the course was a broadcloth tie-on pocket. If you look at the pictures of the inspiration Anna-Karin brought to the class you can see several tie-on pockets with abundant påsöm embroidery. I used these as an inspiration for my own pocket. I also brought a handspun nalbinding hat that I had waulked, to get inspiration for pattern transferring and design.

Upcoming projects that I have arranged the tempalates on are a nalbound and walked hat and a piece of needle felt punch.

My very first påsöm project that I did a couple of years ago was a yoga mat in needle punch felt. A difficulty then was that I couldn’t get a marker to stick to the fabric, so I had to free-form the flowers on the material. I brought a piece of needle punch felt to the course to find a way to transfer the pattern to it without having to improvise it.

Ellinor decided to embroider a broadcloth sample patch. She had her three month old baby with her and didn’t have the opportunity to embroider as much as the rest of us. We didn’t mind taking the baby every now and then, though.

Boel and Anna started on broadcloth bags of different sizes and Kristin had knit and felted a sweater that she embroidered on.

The setting

The Dala-Floda inn is a pearl in the Dalecarlia landscape. A garden not much different from a botanical garden – plants of all shapes, sizes and foliages form sweet rooms to discover. Carefully tended with skilled hands and hearts. Organic and locally grown food cooked with love is on the menu. The interior equally sweetly and thoughtfully planned. All about the inn breathes sincerity and warmth.

I practiced my early morning yoga at 6.30 am in the garden, filling my lungs and my whole system with the cool September air and the sweet garden view.

The company

One of the best parts of going on a wool journey with the wool traveling club is of course the company. Some of us don’t see each other at all during the rest of the year, so when we meet there is a lot to catch up on. For a couple of days we bathe in each other’s relationships, children work and play. Crafting helps bring the conversation deeper and despite the short time we spend together we manage to find truly meaningful and deep conversations. We are sisters in craft. I always go home with a mixed feeling of sheer joy of the company and desperately missing them.

The wool traveling club in the inn garden – Ellinor with baby D, Kristin, Boel, me and Anna.

Thank you sweet sisters in craft, I learn so much from you. We are already planning our 2023 and 2024 wool journeys and I can’t wait for them.

Pending påsöm projects

I’m back home now, embroidering away on my tie-on pocket. I hope to get the hat ready before winter. I also want to try some påsöm on two-end knitted material. Påsöm embroidery has been common on especially mittens. You can check out some lovely church going mittens in my blog post about an earlier wool journey. I have finished spinning a two-end knitting yarn for mittens, but I need to spin some more before I can start knitting and embroidering.

I also have a pair of unfinished two-end knitted jacket sleeves that I would love to decorate with påsöm embroidery.

Regarding the needle punch felt material I have plans to make a sweet… no, wait, that’s a secret.

If you are a patron (or decide to become one) there is a video postcard from the wool journey available.

Happy spinning!

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Sisters in craft

Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.

Last weekend the 2019 wool journey with the wool traveling club took place. Four sisters in craft went to a sheep farm and hired a well renowned Swedish spinning teacher for two days.

The wool traveling club

The wool traveling club started in 2014. I felt a need to meet with other spinners and learn new things. I invited two friends to join me and they in turn invited one friend each. The first wool journey went to Shetland wool week in 2015. It was a wonderful adventure, packed with stories of Shetland’s textile heritage.

Since then we try to go somewhere where we don’t need to go by air.

The wool journey starts on the train.
The wool journey starts on the train.

2016 we visited a spinning mill. 2017 we went to Åsebol sheep farm and hired the talented wool classifier and teacher Kia Gabrielsson who had a one-day workshop in wool knowledge and Māori knitting/Uruahipi. Hiring a spinning teacher just for us is one of the superpowers of the club. We can get a course that is adapted to our skill level and get the best out of the course.

The 2019 wool journey

This year we chose to come back to Åsebol cabin at the sheep farm. It is the same cabin I have rented with my family every year since 2014 and one of my favourite places on Earth. It has everything – sheep, creek and silence.

Knitting by the creek.
Knitting by the creek.

You may recognize the scenery – it plays a part in several of my spinning videos.

A sweet lamb by the creek.
A sweet lamb by the creek.

Blending wool for a specific use

We hired Lena Köster, a well renowned Swedish spinning teacher, master spinner and professional weaver. She teaches at both beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Lena held an advanced course for us in how to blend different wools for a specific use.

Boel is deciding on fiber blends.
Boel is deciding on fiber blends.

Lena talked about how to blend wools to achieve a special quality yarn for a specific purpose. Do I want a strong yarn or a warm yarn? What characteristics do I want in my yarn? Do I want to blend for an aesthetic effect or just function? What do fiber type, length, crimp, or shine do for the finished yarn? What percentage of different fibers will give me the yarn qualitiy I’m looking for?

Lena and Ellinor talk about how to best spin for a twined knitting yarn.
Lena and Ellinor talk about how to best spin for a twined knitting yarn.

This is quite the opposite of what I usually do – I find a wool and want to take advantage of its main characteristics to show them off in a garment or design. Lena’s take starts at the opposite end – she wants to make something and needs to adapt the yarn to the purpose. This is really an interesting perspective that I haven’t worked from before and one that I will learn a lot from.

Boel is spinning warp yarn for tablet weaving from her own Gotland sheep.
Boel is spinning warp yarn for tablet weaving from her own Gotland sheep, brows frowned to accomplish enough twist.

Sock yarn assignment

Lena had made different assignments and we were able to choose one that we wanted to make.

At first I wasn’t sure about what I wanted to do, but when Lena said that she had some mohair and Anna wanted to make a sock yarn I decided that I wanted to make sock yarn too. I’m not a big sock knitter. Ironically I usually think it takes way too much time. I have always been of the opinion that I need to buy a sock yarn since a handspun wound break. The problem with store bought sock yarn is that it usually contains plastic. But (adult) mohair is the perfect sock yarn strengthener!

Angora (left) and rya (right) make the perfect sock yarn partners!
Mohair (left) and rya (right) make the perfect sock yarn partners!

Mohair and rya

I blended the mohair with rya wool. Rya has a long and strong outer coat and a soft and warm under coat, the perfect partner for mohair. I blended 60 % rya with 40 % mohair.

I'm spinning sock yarn on my Björn Peck supported spindle.
I’m spinning sock yarn on my Björn Peck supported spindle.

I combed the fibers together, spun with short draw on a supported spindle and 3-plied. Both the mohair and the outer coat of the rya have beautiful shine and the blend will dye beautifully.

Anna blended her mohair with some Dalapäls wool and rya. She spun her yarn on a suspended spindle.

Anna is a master suspended spindler.
Anna is a master suspended spindler.

I spun the yarn a little too thin, I think it is a light fingering yarn. I managed to spin it remarkably even, perhaps due to thorough combing and dizzing.

My very own 3-ply sock yarn in a rya/Angora blend.
My very own 3-ply sock yarn in a rya/mohair blend.

Too strong or too soft?

I was concerned that the yarn might be too dense. But, then again, most sock yarns I have come across usually have a large amount of very soft fibers like Merino or BFL, which aren’t very strong. If my yarn was a little thicker it may also become a little softer.

A sock yarn swatch.
A sock yarn swatch.

I knit a tiny swatch and tried to imagine it as socks. When I asked my wooly friends if they would wear my socks they all agreed they would. I wasn’t convinced, so I tried the same blend, only spun with long draw from hand-carded rolags.

Rolags on a rainy day.
Rolags on a rainy day.

Stripes!

The new version was definitely softer and I was concerned that it may not be strong enough. My solution, though, was to spin both the softer and the stronger version, dye them in different colours and knit striped socks. Heels and toes would be knitted in the stronger yarn. Sock yarn prototype mission accomplished!

Boel shows Lena her finished tablet warp.
Boel proudly shows Lena her finished tablet warp.

We were all happy with our yarn prototypes. I was actually quite exhausted after two whole days of trial, error and analysis. I think I will need a lot of time to process everything I have learned.

Sisters in craft

Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.
Changing trains with a castle view in Örebro.

Getting away like this for an extended weekend is such a treat. I treasure the memories of our wool journeys for months afterwards. After a while I start longing for our next wooly adventure together.

Walking and crafting in the spring landscape.
Sisters in craft walking and crafting in the Swedish spring landscape.

The power of collected skills

It is such a bliss to be able to get down to the nitty gritty of crafting – we discuss techniques, fiber, tools and projects at our level. Spinning is a rare craft these days and being able to spend a few days with so talented crafters and friends is truly rewarding. Boel with her never-ending curiosity and humility to any craft. Anna with her thoroughness and knowledge about basically everything. And Ellinor with her How hard can it be?-attitude that can move mountains in a breeze. The rush I get from the members’ collected skills and knowledge is truly empowering.

The power of friendship

The course or main event is just a small part of the greatness of our wool journeys. We make time to talk about the big and small things in life, breathing fresh air. We don’t know each other’s friends and neighbours, we don’t share each other’s daily lives and we can focus on each other with an unbiased perspective. All the while we craft, which, in itself, helps in finding a focus and clarity of mind.

Being in the here and now are vital parts of our time together. We take walks, cook, craft, talk and laugh. For the few days we are together we take a break from our daily lives and find focus in the present. We listen to and support each other in a refreshing way.

For a few days we truly are sisters in craft.

Sisters in craft
Sisters in craft – Josefin, Boel, Ellinor and Anna (the fifth sister Kristin couldn’t make it this time)

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.
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