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

2018 wool journey

Josefin Waltin spinning on a medieval spindle and distaff

In previous posts I have written about the wool traveling club. Each year we make a wool journey together. On the 2017 wool journey we visited a sheep farm and hired a professional wool classifier to teach classes for us. This weekend it was time for the 2018 wool journey.

I didn’t shoot a lot, but I managed to put together a short and silly video.

The View by the river Indal

The 2018 wool journey took place at a spin and knit retreat at a place called Utsikten (“the View”) right by the river Indal in the middle of Sweden. And my, is that a view! The way the river carves its way across the landscape is just breathtaking.

Rive rIndal
The breathtakingly beautiful view of the river Indal on the 2018 wool journey

The members of the club live in different parts of Sweden, but for me this meant a five hour journey to the north by train and bus.

Close-up of a nalbinding project, train window in the background
The wool part of the wool journey starts on the train. I’m nalbinding a pair of socks.

The site is owned by a Swedish-Tibetan family. They found it by accident last September when looking for a summer cottage and bought it without much hesitation. And one of the first events they did was a spin event in February and now this spin and knit retreat.

We lived in a tiny cottage in bunk beds. When we got there I really had to go to the loo after the long journey, but I quickly realized that I couldn’t close the bathroom door. Somehow, the wood had expanded and the door got dead stuck in the threshold, with a 20 cm wide peek hole! I was not amused. It took the owner about three hours to plane the threshold down and finally prying it off completely.

Meeting new and old friends

The annual wool journey is, of course, a chance for us to dive into a wool topic head first and get an inspiration shot for future projects. But it is also about seeing each other and being able to investigate, explore and experiment and play with wool at our own pace and level. It is really rewarding to be able to have a conversation about wool and spinning without having to explain to people basic things like where the wool comes from. I think you all know what I am talking about. We can get right into it and look at a topic from our different perspectives. It is a powerful feeling and I learn so much from these cherished moments together.

I also met new friends. One of those was E. Or, maybe she is and old friend. It sure feels like it. E was the first person I sent the traveling spindle library to three years ago. And we met for the first time now at the View. She is a talented and very humble spinner with lots of love for both wheel spinning and a wide variety of spindles.

We sat in outdoors in the afternoon sun and exchanged ideas about spinning and wool. I gave her some advice on how to spin on a Portuguese spindle and she pointed me in the right direction with my current embroidery yarn project (which may become a later post). I also got a chance to try her Balkan spindle. Spinning on a Balkan spindle is the same principle as other in-hand spindles like the French or Portuguese. It doesn’t have a spiral notch, though, but spinning semi-suspended is easy with the aid of a half-hitch. I found the spindle far too light, though, especially in the beginning when the shaft is all naked. My French and Portuguese spindles weigh around 32 g and this must have weighed half fo that. Do you have any experience with Balkan spindles? Is there trick to it?

Classes

I took two classes, in basic and advanced double knitting. The basic was no problem, after all I had done some double knitting about 8 years ago when I knit a double knitting hat for my daughter. But when it got to the advanced part (with different motifs on both sides) my brain got a little overheated.

I also taught a private class for the members of the wool traveling club in medieval style spinning with a distaff.

A person spinning on a medieval style spindle and distaff
Boel looks very cool and relaxed in the medieval spinning and distaff class. She used our thrashed bathroom threshold for a belt distaff. And that’s a beautiful drafting triangle!

It was a lot of fun and also very educational for me. I haven’t taught distaff spinning before and I got an excellent chance to learn what it is that is difficult and how I need to organize my class to give the most value to the students. There are lots of simultaneous elements in distaff spinning that somehow need to be taught linearly, which can be a challenge.

More view

Ostrich-plume feathermoss
Ostrich-plume feathermoss

We didn’t spend all the time spinning, we also got a sip of nature. The View is situated halfway up the river canyon and one morning we went for a hike uphill. It was a very steep hike through a beautiful forest.

Fishbone beard lichen
Fishbone beard lichen

I had the best guides – Ellinor has a background in forestry, Anna in herbology and Boel is a keen bird watcher. All along the path we found traces of animal life. Lots of moose tracks, droppings and bite marks.

Moose track
Fresh moose tracks

Moose bite marks on tree trunk
A hungry moose has chewed the bark off a tree.

Sadly, we didn’t get to walk all the way up to the top, since we had a class to go to and we had to turn back. But it was a beautiful morning hike.

An angel on the train

The train ride home was crowded. I sat beside an eight-year-old girl. At first, she was playing games on her iPad, I was nalbinding a pair of socks. About an hour into the train ride she said: “Your knitting is pretty!”. And we started talking. I asked her about her favourite things at school. She said that she was going to think for a while and get back to me. After a while, she said that her favourite thing at school was meeting new friends.

After another while, she added: “I also love crafting” but sadly she didn’t bring any crafting material for the train ride. I asked her if she knew how to do finger knitting. She did, and I gave her a ball of my handspun to help her fulfill her crafting needs. She started immediately. With a little help from me in Swedish and her father in Farsi, she knit away, happy as a clam. After a while and a couple of decimeters of finger knitting, she smiled and said “I also love how quiet and peaceful crafting is!”. There was a true crafting soul in her. It warms my heart that I was able to give her some crafting joy on the train.

I don’t remember her name, but she said it meant Most beautiful angel in Farsi. A good name for a girl with crafting super powers.


All in all, the 2018 wool journey was very successful. We are already planning for 2019.

A blue door

Wool journey 2017

A flock of sheep in the pasture. The sun is shining on them.
Happy sheep at Åsebol sheep farm

I just came home from the Wool traveling club‘s 2017 Wool journey. We have had such a wonderful time – Anna, Ellinor, Boel and I. Kristin couldn’t make it this time.

We went to Åsebol sheep farm, one of my favourite places on earth. During our stay we mostly sat by the creek, spinning and knitting. We also sat on the back porch, knitting and spinning. Sometimes we sat in the front porch. Spinning and knitting. Every now and then we went for a walk to see the sheep. Sometimes spinning.

Five toilet rolls filled with white yarn.
Rule number one on Wool journeys: Do not throw away empty toilet paper rolls! They are needed as bobbins.

We also had three classes. On the first day I taught a class in supported spinning. My students were fast learners and I think they enjoyed the class. We also hired Kia Gabrielsson from Ullsörvis to teach two classes. Kia is Sweden’s only wool classifier and works at a wool station in Gol, Norway.

Wool knowledge

Wool knowledge is essential to a spinner. With knowledge of wool characteristics the spinner will know what to look for in a fleece to match the quality and the purpose of the yarn. Kia unloaded tons of fleeces from her van and provided us with a wool protocol on which to note characteristics of the wool – strength, shine, elasticity, crimp etc.

A person filling out a form above a white fleece.
Protocol for wool assessment

We looked at several fleeces and filled in a wool protocol for each fleece. They were all wonderful fleeces and very different from each other. As a spinner I have endless opportunities to choose a fleece – or parts of a fleece – to suit my preferences, whether I want to make a sheer shawl, a warm sweater, a sturdy rug or something else. As a final exam, we each got to fill in a protocol of a fleece from the sheep farm.

Hands in a white fleece. The sun is shining.
So many wonderful fleeces

Uruahipi or Māori knitting

Kia’s second class was in Māori knitting, or Uruahipi. It is a very basic kind of knitting with minimal processing, which makes a very soft and airy fabric with a life of its own. You start by drafting straight off the staples to get kind of a rough sliver. The next step is to roll the sliver on your lap to make an even roll. After that you knit. This is usually an activity you do together – with the fleece in the middle you draft and roll for each other. Kia told us stories of how the Māori used to knit like this in the 60’s. She worked in New Zealand in the 80’s and saw lots of Uruahipi knitwear and asked around to find out more about the technique.  She fell in love with it and, lucky for us, she brought it back to Sweden. It also turned out that the technique has been used in other parts of the world.

Kia Gabrielsson holding hand teased wool
Kia drafting for Māori knitting

With the fleece warming our toes and the drafted sliver criss-crossing between us I felt very connected to it all – the wool, the stories and, above all, to Kia and my wool traveling friends.

People sitting in a ring with hand teased lengths of wool going across them. A fleece on the floor in the middle.
Entangled in Uruahipi and Kia’s stories

If you know anything more about Māori knitting or Uruahipi (I think it’s also sometimes called Kiwicraft), please let me know! There is also a Swedish Facebook group for Uruahipi.

Close-up of a project knit with unspun yarn
Uruahipi swatch

After four days of wooly adventures the 2017 wool journey came to an end. We went home and I think we all cherish the memories and long for our next wool journey in 2018.

Josefin Waltin cuddling with a sheep. Dandelions and farm houses in the background.
Lots of sheep cuddling. Photo by Anna Herting

The wool traveling club

Since I started spinning, I have taken different spinning classes. But most of them have been on a beginner’s level and there weren’t much to choose from on a more advanced level. And so, the idea of the wool traveling club was born. The idea was to form a club of intermediate to advanced spinners and take courses adapted to the club members’ needs. I invited my spinning friends Anna and Kristin and they in turn invited one spinning friend each. And so, the wool traveling club, Ullreseklubben, was born. The five of us save money individually each month. Once a year we go on a wool journey together.

After having saved the first sum for 18 month, the premiere wool journey went to Shetland wool week. It was an amazing week. While the wool week arrangement with classes, events and wooly mingling was wonderful in every way, the thing that caught me the most was the ever present textile heritage. Every Shetlander knows the textile history of the island, and, especially, the women’s part in providing for the families with spinning, knitting and sheep husbandry.

The Bressay light house, sheep in foreground
Bressay lighthouse, Shetland

The second year we were all a little short on clink, so we went to Anna’s country house and paid a visit to Solkustens spinnverkstad, a local spinning mill.

This year we’re going to Åsebol sheep farm and we’re all very very eager to go.