I am a spinner

Many people have asked me how I started spinning. I tell them my story, how it began and how it continued. But the other day someone asked me how I became a spinner. And that is to me a totally different question with a totally different answer. During the first few years after having learned some basics of spinning I could say I know how to spin. For the past few years, though, I can say I am a spinner.

When I stream my webinars I always begin by telling the story of how I began. The very first time I had any kind of spinning tool in my hand was on my first spinning lesson. I got a very heavy suspended spindle in one hand, a pair of hand cards in my other and a cardboard box of the newly shorn fleece from Pia-Lotta the Swedish finull lamb in my lap (You can read about how I began spinning and how I continued in the two very first posts in this blog).

From fleece to project

That is how I started and that is how I want to approach wool – I want to go through the whole process, feel the fibers go through my hands every step of the way from raw fleece to a finished yarn and get to know the wool as I work with it.

On my very first spinning lesson I got to dive into Pia-Lotta’s beautiful finull fleece.

Back then, in 2011, I didn’t know that that was the way I wanted to approach wool, because it was the only way I knew how to approach wool. After a while I did try commercially prepared wool, but it didn’t sing to me.

Doing or being?

A few years ago I listened a lot to Brenda Dayne’s brilliant podcast Cast-on. In one of the episodes she talked about knowing how to knit versus being a knitter. I’m not exactly sure how she phrased it, but her reflection stuck with me. She talked about being a knitter as something more, something deeper than just knowing how to knit.

As I reflect over being a spinner as something deeper than knowing how to spin I think about spinning as the main event, something I always come back home to. Everything I do has its foundation in the wool and in the purpose of spinning. When I discover a fleece I do so with the intention to find its soul and translate it into a yarn with my hands and some tools. When I knit, weave, nalbind or otherwise make a textile of my handspun yarn it is to continue that intention and make the yarn shine in the project. I do spin for a certain project to, but always with the spinning as the foundation and guide.

Spinning is something deeper to me than just a craft. It is a way of being. I am a spinner. Photo by Dan Waltin.

As a comparison, I know how to weave, but I definitely don’t consider myself a weaver and I don’t think I will ever become one. Don’t get me wrong, I love weaving. But weaving is far too complicated for me and I just know the basics. Still, enough to make my yarns beautiful as a woven fabric. The reason I learned how to weave was just that, to be able to use yarns from a wider spectrum of handspun yarns than just for knitting purposes. I learned how to weave for the sake of spinning.

Following my inner guide

To me, being a spinner also means allowing the wool to be the guide, alongside my inner guide, which would be the experience I have built through the years. My hands know and remember earlier projects. I can trust that knowledge to guide me in the fleece I have in front of me. I know enough to trust my experience. I also know that I can make mistakes and learn from them. Perhaps even more than if everything went smoothly.

I listen to the wool and let it guide me as I work with it. Photo by Dan Waltin.

With the experience I can also see patterns on a larger scale, connecting the dots and see a larger whole. While grounded in my experience I also have the confidence to explore new perspectives of a fleece and see where it takes me.

Grounded in my experience I can experiment and find new perspectives.

Spinning is nourishing to me. My main creative output is through handspinning (and to some extent writing), but spinning also gives me something more, a peace of mind, a moment to be in my spinning bubble and just breathe. In that flow of creativity and nourishment I find a sweet balance that I don’t want to be without. A balance where I am a spinner.

Finding the shift

So, back to the question of when I became a spinner. I look through my Ravelry project page to see if I can find a point in time or mind when I shifted from knowing how to spin to becoming a spinner.

For the first few years I did make handspun projects, mostly knitted, alongside commercial yarn items. But in 2014 something happened. A Fair Isle vest finished in May 2014 is the beginning of a turn where 75% of my projects are handspun. What happened during or leading up to the vest project?

Norwegian breeds

I had knit the Fair Isle vest with small skeins of yarn I spun from Norwegian breeds. In 2013, when I had got my first spinning wheel, I had taken a summer course in spinning with my spinning friend Anna.

Old Norwegian Spælsau, part of Kia’s fiber club. Photo by Dan Waltin.

I also entered a fiber club with rare and endangered Norwegian breeds hosted by my wool friend Kia. Kia has had a long career in wool and has worked as a wool classifier in Norway for many years. Tons and tons of wool has passed through her hands and she knows wool deep in her core (she is a wooler by heart). In four deliveries I got fleece from different Norwegian breeds that were either rare, endangered or both, all hand picked by Kia.

More than just a vest

I spun the yarns and enjoyed the characteristics of the different breeds. Kia wrote with love about the breeds, how rare a certain quality or colour was and what she imagined that particular wool to become. Her passion is such an inspiration and it lit a spark in me. I decided to make something real with the small skeins of Norwegian yarn. Thinking back of when I knit the vest I remember a special connection to the yarn and how it turned out in the Fair Isle pattern.

Spinning for and knitting Ivy League Vest by Eunny Jang may have been the place in time and mind where I became a spinner. Photo by Dan Waltin.

At the time I didn’t know I had become a spinner. In hindsight though, Kia’s beautiful fiber club and my relationship to the yarn as I knit that vest can have been a place in time and in my mind where spinning became something more than spinning just as a craft. It became a part of me as a person and I became a spinner.

Kia’s passion for wool is truly inspiring.

I have known for some years now that I am a spinner, but it has never occurred to me to look for the shift between knowing how to spin and being a spinner. So thank you JM for your question. It allowed me to explore and learn something new about myself as a spinner. And thank you Kia for holding my hand as I did become a spinner.

Do you know when you became a spinner?

The wool is my guide.

“Do you think you will ever stop being a spinner?” my husband asked me after I had enthusiastically told him about finding a point in time when I shifted from knowing how to spin to becoming a spinner. “If you for some reason take a break for a while, will you stop being a spinner?” A terrifying thought, no doubt, but probably possible. We never know what life throws at us. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

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 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.

The wool is my teacher

I can read a thousand books about wool, spinning and sheep breeds, but it is the wool in my hands and in my process that will teach me how it wants to be spun. Today I reflect about how the wool is my teacher.

Don’t get me wrong – I love spinning books and they are a wonderful resource for deeper knowledge about wool, wool preparation and spinning. I also need guidance to understand how to work the tools for wool preparation and spinning. But to really understand the wool I need to dig my hands into it and spend quantity time with the fibers.

Trust my hands

Handling fleece may seem daunting, but there are so many rewards in exploring a new fleece. Every time. Regardless of whether it is my first or my twentieth fleece, I need to trust my hands in the fleece. I need to trust that my hands investigate the wool and learn how the wool behaves.

The wool is my teacher. Through trusting my hands to investigate the wool I will learn how it behaves and wants to be spun.
The wool is my teacher. Through trusting my hands to investigate the wool I will learn how it behaves and wants to be spun.
  • What does the wool look and feel like in the grease? What happens when I pull out a lock? The information I get from the raw fleece is a good start to getting to know the fleece.
  • How is the different after washing? I recently soaked a fleece where the locks were very loosely attached to each other. When I lifted the fleece out of the soak a number of stray staples swirled around in the tub, like memories in Professor Dumbledore’s pensieve.
  • How are the locks built up? Are they dense, puffy, crimpy, oblong, triangular or downy? By investigating this I can get an idea of how the yarn may bloom when finished.
  • What is the outercoat to undercoat ratio? The information about the dominant fiber type will give me a clue to what I can expect regarding characteristics like softness, warmth, shine and strength in the finished yarn.
  • How does the wool draft? Is it slinky, tough, smooth or jerky? By drafting from the cut end of a staple I can get an idea of how spinnable the wool is.

Trust the information you receive in your hands. Store it, analyze it and experiment with what you learn.

The wool is my teacher

My hands ask the wool questions like the ones in the bullet list above. I need to trust the wool to reply to me with the information I need to proceed. If I allow my hands to listen to the wool and to trust the wool they will learn about how the wool behaves and what I can do to make it justice. I need to trust the wool to be my teacher. I need to trust my hands to trust the wool. When I give myself the time to slow down and listen I will learn.

Two yarns in ten shades from one fleece. At first I spun outercoat and undercoat together, but that resulted in string. The wool taught me that I would benefit more from separating the coats.
Two yarns in ten shades from one fleece. At first I spun outercoat and undercoat together, but that resulted in string. The wool taught me that I would benefit more from separating the coats.

In the book Momo by Michael Ende the girl Momo lives in an amphitheater. By simply being with people and listening to them, she can help them find answers to their problems, make up with each other, and think of fun games. The story is about the concept of time and how it is used by humans in modern societies. The Men in Grey, eventually revealed as a species of paranormal parasites stealing the time of humans, spoil this pleasant atmosphere. One of the most important steps Momo takes in winning the stolen time back is to walk backwards. Only then can she get forward. So to come to the end of your yarn, go back to the raw fleece. Get to know it, trust it and let it lead the way.

The wool is my teacher every day. Every time I spin I learn and realize something new. I may call myself a spinning teacher, but I am just as much a spinning student. I am so grateful for this.

A learning process

To me, spending time with the wool in all its stages is the most important part of understanding wool and spinning. You can only learn about the fleece you have by being with the fleece you have. Investigate the wool and experiment. What did you see in the investigation? How is that realized in your experimentation? Analyze your findings. What do you see? What do you think that will imply? How does it realize in experimentation? What do you learn from that? The information and knowledge you get from one fleece will stay with you. With every new fleece you get to know you will have more previous fleeces to lean on. Walk backwards to move forwards.

You are your own best teacher

I trust the wool to guide me. In this guiding I trust my hands to listen to the wool. I allow my hands to ask the wool questions. And I listen to the answer. I trust what I learn from the knowledge of my hands. In this process I allow myself to be my own best teacher.

My students at Sätergläntan craft education center are their own best teachers.
My students at Sätergläntan craft education center are their own best teachers.

Together with books and talented teachers I am also my own best teacher. So are you. Trust the wool. Trust yourself to trust the wool.

Tools

I offer coursers where I guide you in understanding your fleece and making your conclusions. Through investigating, being curious and experimenting I encourage you to getting to know your fleece. Here are some tools that may inspire you to investigate your fleece:

  • Fleece through the senses challenge. Free challenge with one assignment every day for five days. This challenge has become very popular! 550 people have already accepted the challenge. Many students have shared their experiences with their fleeces in the comments. This is a huge asset to the course!
  • Know your fleece. An online course where we go a bit deeper into a fleece. I show lots of examples and inspiring videos and you get lots of tools to investigate and explore your fleece.
  • Spinn ullens bästa garn, a five-day course at Sätergläntan. We bring a fleece and investigate it to get to know how it behaves and how it wants to be spun.
  • You are welcome to contact me for a zoom workshop for your spinning group or guild.
  • I also offer personal coaching sessions.

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.
  • 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.

55 grams of wool

55 grams of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.

I bought a jar of home made shoe wax from a spinner, made of sheep tallow and beeswax from her own backyard. To optimize the cost of the shipping, she added some extra padding – 55 grams of wool from the young Dalapäls ewe Brisa.

Today I dive deep into words of beauty and excess to dress my sensations of Brisa’s wool in linguistic splendour. Feel free to read this story aloud.

Brisa, born 2019. Dalapäls sheep. Shorn fall 2020. Sorted, unwashed. 55 grams of wool.
Brisa, born 2019. Dalapäls sheep. Shorn fall 2020. Sorted, unwashed. 55 grams of wool.

A small ziplock bag

A small ziplock bag of little importance. Brisa, it’s labeled, 55 grams of wool. Inside it a world of wooly wonder. My hands electric with excitement as I open the transparent treasure chamber. Devoutly I free the locks from their plastic prison. Out they come with a sigh of relief – floof – they huff and they puff and they grow their house out.

An airy cloud of promises emerges from the wool cave. Let me tell you what I see:

  • Long outercoat rays, beaming like the sun.
  • Soft, cushioning undercoat, flowing, billowing, a silky, subtle glow like the moon’s reflection in a lake.
  • Breezy greasy lanolin spots, sparkling stars all over.

Sweet vanilla locks, shining like the sun, the moon and the stars together. A universe of ripples in countless dimensions.

The whole family of staples – long and sleek, short and crimpy and a spectrum between.
The whole family of staples – long and sleek, short and crimpy and a spectrum between.

A smell and a smile

As I lean over for a closer look I stop. I smell. A smile starting at my giddy toes reaches the follicles on the top of my head – Swoosh! A burst of joy. Surely you must have heard it, the sound of delight for the smell of a sheep. Of wool in my lap, of drafting with love, of wearing my handspun and bursting with pride. Through all the steps the scent will prevail. Fainter, yes, paler, but still a reminder of a sheep it once knew.

55 grams of Dalapäls wool
55 grams of Dalapäls wool.

The cast and the crew

The whole family of staples is there. Locks of all shapes and fashions. All important, all sincere, holding hands in their dance through the fleece. Protecting their queen from hot, cold and rain. May I present:

  • The tall, bold cones. Silky and strong, slight poof in their feet.
  • Others, tall too, yet buoyant and plush. Like nervous cartoon legs, twirling a sway.
  • A small group of staples are wavier still, unruly, open and airy.
  • Smallest of all are the crimpies, the curlies, the ever so softies, shy and petite.
Sweet locks of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.
Sweet locks of dalapäls wool in a birch root basket from the end of the 19th century.

Cutting edge design for optimal sheep comfort. Sharpened through centuries of nature’s own choice. I wonder where you grew, sweet locks? Keeping the neck warm with short, crimpy curls? Long outercoat tips leading the rain drops away? Which ones grew on the sleepy side? Who protected the belly, lightly touching the grass? The map of the sheep a guide for my tools – shawls, socks and mittens from neck, back and legs.

Translate and transform

What can you do, sweet curls? How can I make you shine through my hands? How can I form a strand that is for me what you were for your sheep? Dare I take on these 55 grams? Will I find the soul of this pearl? I dare, I will, I do! I will make mistakes, surely I will. Bumps will appear in the road. I keep them as treasures to learn and to steer my craft in a novel direction.

I find the cut end of a luscious lock, I draft, I twirl and rejoice. Slowly, gently, the fibers give in, finding their place in the draft. My hands listen closely: When to draft? How to twist? The fibers will tell me if I open my mind and welcome the voice of the wool.

Finding the soul of sweet Brisa's locks.
Finding the soul of sweet Brisa’s locks.

I close my eyes and draft, slowly, mindfully. The lanolin, oh, the lanolin oils the journey from cloud to contour. As I draft I see little grains of nature, wandering forward into the twist, playfully skipping off the ride along the way. I wait for that point of twist engagement, when the fibers slide past each other without coming apart. That very window when nothing is decided and possibilities are endless. In this now freedom is mine. Yet I hear the wool and do its bidding. I spin what the locks want to be.

Once upon a staple

Another curl, another now. Pointy top tip, sweet puffy toes. One end in each hand, gently tugging. Resist, resist, resist… and yield. In a viscous blink the once upon a staple is suddenly divided. In the one hand strong and shiny, in the other soft and airy. The tug of togetherness takes new shapes. One sleek, the other abundant. Each with their own treat of traits. New yarns imagined. Another now is here.

Separating outercoat from undercoat.
Separating outercoat from undercoat.

Locks of love

I look at the locks, once again smiling. The cut ends straight, shorn in a whiff. Closing my eyes I can hear the shears squeaking. One clip, another, another still. Soft hand on breathing sheep back. Comforting, close, still one of the flock. Snip by snip with love for sheep and wool. Allowing a new coat to grow, flow and flourish.

I see a seed, a twig, a piece of moss. A nod from grazing the pasture. A token of love from mother nature herself. Signs of a landscape, a meadow or forest. All part of a story that is sheep. This sheep. Sweet Brisa of Nyland.

I want to say this is Brisa, but it is not, she was unavailable at the time of the photo. It is however one of her pasture colleagues Stumpan, born in 2019 as a bottle lamb.
I want to say this is Brisa, but I can’t. She was full of straw when I asked the shepherdess for a photo. It is however an earlier photo of one of her pasture colleagues Stumpan, born in 2019 as a bottle lamb. See the curlies around her neck? Photo by Carina Jakobsson.

With a sigh of lightness I put the locks back in the ziplock bag. I go for a walk in the evening air. The billowing snow flakes land gently on my newly waxed boots.


Recently I bought a book on writing – Steering the craft, a 21st century guide to sailing the sea of story, by Ursula K. Le Guin. The book consists of 10 themes, each theme with an exercise for the reader. Today’s blog post is my contribution to the theme The sound of your writing and the exercise Being gorgeous – write a text that is meant to be read aloud, using onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects and made-up words, just not rhyme. I hope you got some gorgeous out of this piece.

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.

Know your fleece

This is it! I have pushed the publish button. Drum rolls and fanfares – My new online course Know your fleece has officially launched! Make sure you enroll in tonight’s free webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage to get access to special course offers!

Buy the course here!

Know your fleece

After a lot of hard work and a long launch period it is finally Launch Day. I wanted to make a course in wool knowledge that takes its starting point in the characteristics of the fleece you have in front of you. A breed can have typical breed characteristics, but it is the fleece you have that you will work with and get to know.

In this course you work with a fleece that you have chosen. With the help of inspirational video material and structured assignments you will explore, analyze, empower, plan and experiment with your fleece to get to know it. You work with your fleece, at your skill level, with the tools you have access to and as extensively as you like. I provide inspiration, my experience, my perspective on wool and a structure to work within.

When you have finished the course you will feel more confident in handling raw fleece and planning the process from fleece to textile. You will know how your fleece feels, behaves and how it wants to be spun.

A glimpse of the course curriculum of the new online course Know your fleece.
A glimpse of the course curriculum of the new online course Know your fleece (the image is a screen shot from the course curriculum page).

Five sheep breeds

Through the course you will get to know five Swedish sheep breeds – Gotland sheep, Gute sheep, Klövsjö sheep, Helsinge sheep and Dalapäls sheep. Three of these breeds are presented as webinars that I have streamed during the past couple of years. You may have seen them, but for the course I have edited them and added pictures, keywords and captions. For the two remaining breeds I have made new videos where I present how I prepare, spin and use them.

In one of the sheep breed videos I present Helsinge sheep and look for the main characteristics of the fleece I got.
In one of the sheep breed videos I present Helsinge sheep and look for the main characteristics of the fleece I got (the image is a screen shot of the video).

Championships tour

I will also take you on a tour of the Swedish fleece championships of 2019 together with my spinning friend Anna Lindemark. We go through the fleeces in the championships, category by category, and look at what is unique to the breeds and to the individual fleeces.

A visit to a shepherdess

Another friend of mine is shepherdess and spinner Lena Hansjons. She has a flock of Dalapäls sheep and in one of the inspirational videos of the course I visit her while she shears her sheep and talk about the endangered Dalapäls breed.

Dalapäls sheep are also presented in one of the breed study webinars that is included in the inspirational material.

Know your fleece: Course outline

The course is organized in five themed modules which include the inspirational videos. Each module also presents an assignment you will work on with your fleece and document. When the course is over you will have produced a wool board with samples and swatches to use as a guide for when you process and spin the rest of the fleece.

When you sign up for the course you will get

  • over 5 hours of video material
    • presentations of five Swedish sheep breeds
    • a tour of the Swedish fleece championships
    • a visit to a shepherdess
  • a pdf ebook of the course
  • checklists for each assignment
  • a list of the tools I use
  • useful links to further reading.

The videos (except the visit to the shepherdess) are in English. All the videos are fully captioned in English.

Requirements and material

To take this course you need to be comfortable spinning yarn and you need basic knowledge of wool preparation. When it comes to material you need

  • a washed fleece*
  • tools for wool processing
  • knitting needles
  • notepad
  • time.

*it is up to you if you want to work with washed or unwashed fleece, but I don’t provide washing instructions in the course

This is not a course in spinning or wool preparation, it is about wool knowledge and with your fleece as a case study. You work with your fleece, at your level and with the tools you have. The work and time you invest in exploring your fleece now will bring you closer to the essence of your fleece and to making it shine.

Should I buy the course?

Buying a course is an investment. Many students of my free five-day challenge Fleece through the senses have expressed a feeling of transformation in how they look at fleece after having taken on the challenge. I hope this course will do the same for you if you buy it.

I have tried to describe the course as extensively as possible. To help you decide I have made several things available for you:

  • The course page provides information about the course. You can also see the themes and headers of the lectures in the course.
  • The course promo is available on the course page. In the promo I show you glimpses of the video material and talk about the content, purpose and goal of the course.
  • The introductory video of the course is available as a preview before you buy the course.
The introductory video of the course Know your fleece is available as a free preview.
The introductory video of the course Know your fleece is available as a free preview (the image is a screenshot of the video).

Webinar: The hand spinner’s advantage

(the webinar has already taken place)

Another way to help you decide about buying the course or not is tonight’s webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage. I will stream it live today Saturday, September 19th at 5 pm CET (world clock here). In the webinar I will talk about

  • what a fleece can teach us
  • how we as hand spinners can make the superpowers of a fleece shine
  • a mindful approach to working with fleece.

In the webinar I will also talk about the online course Know your fleece. Towards the end of the webinar I have made special course offers for you that you don’t want to miss. The offers are time-limited.

Two yarns in ten different colours. As a hand spinner I have the advantage to make the most of the fleece I work with
Two yarns in ten different colours. As a hand spinner I have the advantage to make the most of the fleece I work with. I will talk about this in the webinar The Hand spinner’s advantage.

The webinar has already taken place

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.

Teaching at Sätergläntan

This week I have been teaching at Sätergläntan craft education center – a five-day course I call A spindle a day. The students learn four different spindle types and wool processing. On the fifth and final day I invite them to a wool tasting to make them realize how much they have actually learned. The course is also about the slowness of spindle spinning and how spinning can help you find peace of mind.

Sätergläntan craft education center in its midsummer prime.

Teaching at Sätergläntan

This is the third time I teach a five-day course at Sätergläntan – the first time was all about supported spindle spinning. Last summer I taught A spindle a day for the first time. It has been such a lovely experience every time. Inspiration oozes from every corner of every building at the center. Every handle, curtain, rug, hook and decoration is hand made. Teaching at Sätergläntan is – aside from the teaching experience itself – an experience mindfully wrapped in a handmade environment bursting with craft and creativity.

I stayed in the landscape house where all the rooms are named after Swedish landscapes. I got the Gotland room, which must have been the nicest of them all. It was filled with hand crafted things made with love and care by crafters and artists from Gotland in traditional techniques.

A spindle a day

The course was fully booked many months ago, but due to the corona crisis several people had had to cancel their reservations. But there were still enough students left for the center to go through with the course. We all missed the presence of the spinners who couldn’t make it and hope they will be able to take it another, safer time. As a teacher I felt privileged, though, for the opportunity to teach only five students and be able to give them all individual coaching when they needed it. The students were between 20 and 69,5 years old – my youngest group yet. Usually I’m the youngest at 47. The students had different spinning backgrounds and experiences from novice to intermediate but all with a profound interest in textiles and wool.

Suspended spindle

The first day was dedicated to wool knowledge, combing and suspended spindle spinning. We looked at what the wool preparation does not only for the spinning experience but also for the decisions you make through the process. Every time you handle the wool you learn something about it – how long the staples are, the elasticity, how it drafts and how it holds together. All these little pieces add together into a puzzle that gets more and more complete as you work with the wool. When you get to the spinning part you have gathered information that will help you make decisions about your yarn and your spinning technique. We worked with these thoughts as our guide throughout the whole course.

I encouraged the students to try different wools and reflect over how the wools are and behave differently and how the behavior of the wool influence the decisions they make for the yarn.

One students made thorough samples with notes for all her preparation, spinning techniques and spindle types.
One students made thorough samples with notes for all her preparation, spinning techniques and spindle types.

Navajo style spindles and carding

Day two was dedicated to carding and spinning on Navajo style spindles. As I wrote in last week’s post my wood turner Björn Peck had delivered a batch of beautiful Navajo style spindles for the course.

Navajo style spindles are risky to ship, especially between continents. If you are in North America, please buy from Navajo artists. Here is one. There are also other makers in the U.S.

Carding rolags

There is something about carding. Some people card the way they have learned many years ago, some don’t really like carding because they don’t get good result. But few have analyzed their carding or which properties to strive for in their rolags. In the course we talked about what we want the rolag to do and how to get there.

Rolag progression in Åsen wool from one student from bottom to top. The aim is a rolag with an even distribution of separated fibers throughout a rolag with an even and defined shape.

After the class one student said she had been carding for 35 years but had never got as round rolags as she had today. Another said that she now enjoyed the carding process in a way she hadn’t before. My heart bubbles of joy when I can guide my students to make new insights like these. They all made a remarkable progress in their carding similar to the one in the photo above.

Spinning on Navajo style spindles

Spinning on a Navajo style spindle is both slow and fast. You set the spindle in motion by rolling the shaft with your flat hand against your outer thigh. You don’t get much speed in that. However, you usually spin with quite low twist yarn and often bulky yarns.

The students felt more comfortable with the slow spinning style but did get results fast since the fiber spun up quickly. And they all loved the technique. The whole body is involved in the motion and there is something magic happening between the hands in the long draw that stretches from the spindle hand at the thigh and the fiber hand by the opposite shoulder.

We worked a lot with opening up the twist and finding the point of twist engagement. The point of twist engagement is the space in the distance between fiber and yarn where there is enough twist for the fibers to stick together but not enough to lock them. This was a revelation to the students. By keeping the twist close to that twist angle where the fibers just slide past each other without sliding apart they could manipulate the yarn by opening up the twist with just a light movement with their thumbs on each side of the point of twist engagement.

Double and consecutive drafting

We tried spinning with both a double draft and (in lack of better words) a consecutive draft.

With the double draft you

  • add twist to the rolag until you feel the rolag twisting slightly in your fiber hand
  • draft (the first draft) by moving your fiber hand outwards until you reach shoulder height
  • fine tune any bumps by opening up the twist
  • add more twist (second draft) when you are happy with the shape and thickness of the yarn.

In consecutive drafting (does anyone have a better term for this?) you

  • do only the first draft all through the wool for one skein. You end up with a fluffy cake of lightly twisted pencil roving or pre-draft.
  • Once finished you draft through the wool a second, third or even fourth time, each time drafting a bit until you get the thickness you want, still keeping the twist close to the point of twist engagement. At the final draft you add the twist you need for the finished yarn.

This is a more efficient way that can also lead to a more even yarn. I haven’t done this very much, but this day I tried it. I ended up making four consecutive drafts, starting with a bulky pre-draft and ending with a thin and even singles yarn.

I really liked this consecutive method of drafting and I will explore it further. Having one task for each turn with the wool made the yarn more even. I also had time to think about what I was doing and how I wanted to go through with the upcoming draft.

In-hand spindle and distaff

I always feel a bit nervous when I present the in-hand spindle and distaff technique. There are lots of things to focus on and it can be a bit overwhelming. But it can bring the students closer to textile history (from a European perspective). It can also bring them closer to the yarn and the spinning since the spinner has a lot of control over the yarn they spin.

Nice and orderly and good. Dressed distaffs for in-hand spinning. Värmland, finull and dalapäls wool.

The students dressed their distaffs and spun their yarns, all looking like the flemish paintings that give us the clues to the technique – a proud raised distaff hand, a twiddling spindle hand in hip-height and the yarn diagonally over the torso. And, as with all the previous spindle techniques they learned how to spin with both hands as spindle hands and fiber hands, just like I tell them to. They look at their technique, verbalize it and make lots of progress in both theory and practice – they talk about what they do and have the vocabulary to analyze the technique.

In-hand spinning with distaffs in the shade.

Supported spindle

The fourth spindle in the course was the supported spindle. This is the spindle I feel the most confident teaching because I have done it so many times. It was also the spindle some of the students had looked forward to the most.

Supported spindle spinning day was a success. Spindle in cherry by Björn Peck.

On a one- or two-day course I usually teach the technique in steps, beginning with an empty spindle, progressing to spinning with commercial yarn and then move on to fiber. But in this course the students have gradually learned the skills they need to spin on a supported spindle and they can skip these preparational steps. They have learned to change angles and spin over the upper tip of the spindle in both Navajo style spinning and in-hand spinning. Through all the previous spindle days they have learned to handle the wool, wool preparation and most importantly to listen to and trust the wool. They all loved the technique and quickly came to a mindful place when spinning.

My students learn to flick with three fingers and the thumb for more flicking oomph and less strain. Supported spindle in flame birch by Björn Peck.

Many of them had very high expectations of the Björn Peck spindles I had brought and they were not disappointed. I had spindles from several different renown spindle makers for them to try but most of them loved Björn’s spindles the best.

Wool tasting

Wool tasting is a concept I have developed to give the students an experience of one wool at a time and to allow them to practice what they have learned throughout the week. We do this on the fifth day that is dedicated to peace of mind and reflection.

They get five different wools, one at a time and get to handle each wool for 15 minutes. They analyze the wool, make notes of its characteristics, prepare and spin it and tie a sample to the wool tasting form. During these 15×5 minutes they go on a journey to discover each wool on their own, make decisions on preparation and spinning tools and how to prepare and spin it based on the skills they have learned during the week. When the wool tasting form is filled with all five wools in the tasting they have in front of them a map of what they have learned.

I enjoyed every second of watching them focused at their task. During the course I had seen them struggling with tools and spindles, making amazing progress and now handling wool, tools and thought process with confidence. I was so proud of them and thankful for having had the privilege of guiding them to their new skills.

Spinning meditation

The last thing we did before the course was over was to go inwards in a spinning meditation. To me spinning and meditation have a lot in common. Just like meditation, spinning can bring you into a flow where you can allow your thoughts to come and go and to find the space between your thoughts.

In the spinning meditation we allow ourselves to listen to the wool with no expectations on the yarn. For fifteen minutes we spin in silence. I do my best to guide them into noticing their surrounding, the experiences of the senses in the spinning and the inner process when they spin. Towards the end of the meditation I ask them to close their eyes if they want to to get the opportunity to come even closer to the inner process of spinning. Spinning with your eyes closed can seem scary, but all the students felt safe enough in the group and confident enough in their spinning to close their eyes, some for several minutes.

Through the filled-out form in the wool tasting the students got their map of what they had learned. During the spinning meditation I got mine. I saw them spin relaxed, focused and with knowledge in their hands and minds. Eventhough it was melancholic to leave Sätergläntan and the students my heart was singing as I walked over the meadow to the main building. For five days I had had the privilege of watching five spinners develop and grow in their spinning skills and wool preparation, but perhaps most of all in their inner spinning process. And I had been a part of that.

I will treasure these memories like sweets in a chrystal bowl. In the darkness of the winter months I will pick them, one by one, and think back on a lovely midsummer time spent at Sätergläntan. But befor that, I will come back. In October I teach the five-day course Spin the fleece’s best yarn. I can’t wait.

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.

Backstrap weaving

For a long time I have been fascinated by the rich textural culture of the Andes. The simplicity of the tools together with the complex textiles you can make and the ubiquitous presence and history of textile making all warm my heart. In this post I share my learning process, my thoughts and my woven projects in the online course in backstrap weaving that I’m taking.

Backstrap weaving

Backstrap weaving is an ancient technique where the warp is attached in one end to a weaver and in the other to a solid object like a tree or a post. The weaver builds the loom for every new project.

Close-up of a backstrap loom. Wooden sticks and rods attached between blue warp threads. A hand is pulling a piece of yarn through the shed.
The building of a Backstrap Loom: On the far ends (which you can’t see) are the near and far loom bars. The near loom bar is attached to the backstrap around the weaver’s hips and the far loom bar around a tree or post. The two bars attached together with silicone bands are the rolling bars. These keep the cross in place and helps the weaver find both sheds. The heddle rod holds the heddles that lift the lower threads in the shed. The beater/sword/machete is used to beat the weft. The thin stick at the top with red silicone bands is a dovetail stick. I’m weaving a circular warp and the dovetail stick keeps the beginning and the end of the warp together.

The technique can be used with tablets, a rigid heddle or with string heddles and is still practiced in many parts of the world. In the Andes most backstrap weaving is done warp-faced.

A person weaving on a backstrap loom. In the picture you see the backstrap around the weaver's hips and the loom bar the backstrap is attached to in front of the weaver. Wooden sticks are stored in the side pockets of the weaver's trousers.
The weaver ties her- or himself into the loom between the near loom bar and the backstrap.

Simple and complex

A year ago I started spinning as close as I could to Andean spinning on Peruvian Pushkas. The fleece I started with was around 2 kilos and there is lots left of it. I still spin every night on my Pushkas before I go to sleep. I have many nights left of spinning before I’m out of fleece.

The Andean way of spinning and weaving fascinates me, as is the rich textile history and culture in the Andes. At first I didn’t plan to learn backstrap weaving, but when I saw that there were online courses available I realized that I really needed to learn this beautiful technique. The courses I have found are made and taught by Kimberly Hamill and Laverne Waddington. I chose Kimberly Hamill’s course and I will also try one of Laverne Waddington’s for some extra techniques. I bought a loom from Kimberly Hamill. She also has instructions on how to make your own backstrap loom.

Backstrap weaving with handspun

One important part of learning backstrap weaving was to use my handspun yarns and find out how to spin suitable yarns for weaving in general and backstrap weaving in particular. By trying different yarns I would be able to learn what works and what doesn’t work for a weaving technique where there is a lot of tension and abrasion on the warp threads.

A natural brown woven strap
My first finished project woven with my backstrap loom. I used a handspun 3-ply from a Härjedal/Åsen crossbred. The yarn was quite sticky and I didn’t have the flow I expect I would have had with less sticky yarn.

Earlier this year I had a band weaving period and there I realized how different levels of fuzz influence the weaving process. In weaving with my handspun yarns I could find what level of fuzziness I could tolerate. So learning backstrap weaving will essentially also teach me how to spin for weaving.

Happy heddles

When I got the loom in the mail I found all the things I needed – an array of sticks of different sizes, warping pegs, c-clamps and balls of string for different purposes. One of the balls of strings was truly hideous. And I’m not talking about the bright pink colour, flown in directly from the -80’s. No, I’m talking about the material: Nylon. The reason for the nylon material was that it was smooth and wouldn’t catch the warp yarn which would be good for a beginner like me. I accepted that and used the nylon for my heddles.

A person weaving on a Backstrap Loom. The warp yarn is natural brown. The heddle yarn is bright pink.
My first backstrap weaving project with the hideous nylon heddles.

Equal heddle and warp

Marie Ekstedt Bjersing is a weaving teacher at Sätergläntan center for craft education. She saw pictures of my first weaving project politely asked me if I had chosen the heddle yarn myself. I said no and asked if she had any thoughts about the heddle yarn. She encouraged me to use my own handspun, which I would never have thought of myself. Her advice was to use a 3-plied yarn with long fibers and high twist. The best yarn for the heddles would be slightly thinner than the warp yarn.

Marie also advised me to use the same material for the heddles as for the warp – wool heddles for wool yarn etc. She has a theory about using equal fibers, or at least fibers with equal properties, in heddles and warp. The strongest material will win and with abrasion the weakest will break. She works with floor looms and often the nylon string have made ugly marks in the beams of the looms – the nylon string is stronger than the wood in the beams. But the heddles are far easier to change than the loom beams. A heddle yarn that is thicker than the warp yarn may cause breakage in the warp threads. Warp and heddle yarns with different properties may cause abrasion in one of the yarns. A balance between the warp yarn and the heddle yarn will be an important part of the balance in the whole weaving process.

Thank you Marie for your wise thoughts!

Handspun heddles

Just as I needed to find out for myself what level of fuzziness I could tolerate in the warp, I needed to find out how I could use my handspun yarn for the heddles. So far it is working out and I take mental notes of how the heddles interact with the warp. I have not yet woven with warp or heddle yarn that I have spun specifically for weaving but I will eventually. This is only the beginning.

I’m surprised that I enjoyed the making the heddles as much as I did! Perhaps just because I used my handspun yarn for the heddles. When I build the heddles that control the warp threads I feel like I can do anything.

A backstrap loom hanging in a staircase.
My Backstrap Loom safely and neatly stored under the staircase. Warp, weft and heddles are my handspun yarn. The backstrap is woven on my backstrap loom.

Backstrap weaving a backstrap

While the first project in the course was a plain strap, the second project was all about backstrap weaving a backstrap. I was thrilled with the idea.

Close-up of a tight warp-faced weaving in natural and turquoise flax yarn.
Backstrap weaving with flax yarn. Second backstrap project.

For this project I chose a commercial flax yarn, though. I figured that I would weave outdoors in the summer and I imagined a linen backstrap would be lovely to weave with.

Close-up of a tight warp-faced weaving in natural and turquoise flax yarn. Heddles in flax yarn. The sun shines through the heddles and leaves shadows on the warp.
Weaving a backstrap with my backstrap loom. Warp, weft and heddles in flax yarn from Växbo lin.

You know when you do something quite seldom, and when you do it again you remember why you don’t do it more often? That is the case for me and weaving with flax yarn. I love flax, but as soon as I weave with it I remember why I don’t do it very much. Flax yarn is not forgiving like wool and it takes lots of patience and focus to work with. I had this realization when I had finished warping. But this time it actually worked like a charm! The weave was a bit crooked in the beginning, but after a while I got a really nice and even looking fabric.

A finished backstrap on the ground. The end is braided.

I now love weaving with my backstrap woven linen backstrap. It fits perfectly and I burst with pride everytime I wrap myself in it.

Problems with pebbles

The third project was quite a challenge. We were weaving a band with pebble weave. The technique involves pick-up patterns. The first assignment was to design the pattern, which proved to be surprisingly difficult. After a while I came up with a wavy sort of pattern that I liked.

For this project I definitely chose the wrong handspun yarn. It was too loosely spun and too fuzzy. Several warp threads thinned out and broke. Also, the colours were too close to each other in hue. I actually didn’t finish the project, but it was still a valuable lesson in the most important qualities in a yarn.

Close-up of a person manipulating warp threads on a backstrap loom.
The third project was pebble weaving. Very thin, too loosely spun yarn in colours in hues too close to each other. The fiber comes from a merino/silk commercially combed top I had received as a gift. I spun the yarn on a supported spindle. If you squint you can see a vague wave pattern. Heddle yarn in Värmland outercoat wool.

I will get back to this technique with more suitable yarn and colours.

Balanced weave

While most backstrap weaving, at least in the Andes is done warp-faced, the fourth project was all about balanced weave. It was quite a challenge to find the right tension to weave loose enough.

A backstrap loom with a balanced weave in greens.
Balanced weave on a backstrap loom.

The yarn I chose was not one of my proudest moments. A while ago I received beautiful commercially combed and blended tops as a gift. I am not keen on spinning these. I don’t really know how to and I find neither flow nor mindfulness in the process. But I figured the yarn would be good for something and why not weaving. So I spun them quick and dirty and had myself some weaving yarn.

A green scarf hanging on a clothes line.
The fourth project was dedicated to balanced weave.

The assignment was to weave a scarf, but I did some miscalculation on the amount of warp threads and ended up with a 10 cm wide scarf instead of 20 cm. So I’m not really sure how to use this scarf. But it was still lovely weaving!

A bag to dye for

The final project of the course was to weave a bag with most of the components from previous projects. I had a lovely yarn that would be perfect for the bag, but I didn’t think the natural white would be very suitable for a bag. So I decided to dye it. I am not a very good dyer, but for some reason I did things right this time and ended up with exactly the colour I wanted. It was even even!

A ball of blue yarn on a tree trunk.
My proudest dyeing moment. The yarn is my handspun from a Norwegian whole-year NKS crossbred spun worsted and 2-plied.

I started weaving a warp faced strap for the bag. This was the first time I really felt I had control of all the aspects of the weaving. I knew what to do, but first and foremost I understood why I did it and how I could fix things that went wrong.

Last night I warped and lashed on for the bag part of the bag, which will be in balanced weave. You may see the finished bag in a future blog post.

A weaving sample over a book. A sheep's head on the cover of the book.
I’m doing sett tests for balanced weave on a book.

A bag with a purpose

Most pictures and videos I have seen of backstrap weaving have been with sitting weavers. I like to stand and so I stand when I backstrap weave. While starting out sitting I have realized that I have a better control of the tension when I stand. I also feel that I can get a stronger tension if I need to. The problem with standing, though, arises when I drop things – usually the sword. During this process I have become a master of picking things up with my toes!

At first I didn’t really know what to use the bag for, but when I realized that I would keep my weaving supplies in it when weaving instead of dropping them I could start weaving the bag with a purpose.

Weaving with the trees

The course started in March when it was way too cold to weave outdoors. But at the fifth module it had started to get warm enough to weave outdoors. I almost cried when I attached my loom to a young linden tree in the pale afternoon sun.

A person weaving outdoors on a backstrap loom. The loom is attached at the far end to a tree. An old house in the background.
Outdoor weaving at last.

Standing there, weaving on a loom that I had built myself (although I haven’t made the loom parts) and actually understood, and with warp, weft and heddles that I had spun myself was truly a magic feeling. Last year’s leaves were rustling under my feet and the spring birds were singing. I could feel the wind in my face. The trunk before me felt strong and safe as I worked with it to control the warp between us. We were both essential parts of the loom. I was finally weaving with the trees.

A Backstrap Loom attached to a tree.
I’m finally weaving with the trees.

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

Webinars

This weekend I live streamed a webinar – a breed study of the Swedish breed Jämtland sheep from the spinner’s perspective. Webinars are powerful tools to meet and share information and skills. Today I invite you to my studio and the making of a breed study webinar.

This webinar is about Jämtland wool.

Webinar content creation

A webinar is a seminar or other presentation that takes place on the Internet, allowing participants in different locations to see and hear the presenter, ask questions and comment.

The first thing to think about in the making of a webinar is the content: What should the webinar be about? At the moment I am making a webinar series of breed studies of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective.

Subject and crafting

I pick the breed I want to talk about. Preferably a breed I have worked with and have fleece available for. I also want it to be a breed from which I have made something of the yarn to show you. If I haven’t I need to prepare that too – I want to be able to show you the whole process from fleece to a finished textile or at least a sample of some sort.

A woman working on a computer by an office desk.
There is lots of preparation work to create the content for a webinar.

I also take photos for the blog post. The photos, especially the close-ups, are important for both the blog post and the live stream. I have only one camera in the webinar and it doesn’t do close-ups very well. With the close-up photos in the blog post my viewers can go back to the blog post if they missed details in the webinar.

Outline

I have the same basic outline for all my webinars – I talk briefly about the breed and then I go on to preparation, spinning and use of the wool of that breed. I want to show the steps in the process from fleece to project. To me the preparation of wool is the most important thing – the steps I take early in the process have consequences for the end result. I show different ways to prepare and spin the wool and how they affect the end result.

The content I fill my outline with is the base of that week’s blog post and is also the starting point of my webinar script. My hope is that the video webinar together with the written blog post will fit as many learning styles as possible.

Administration and tech

There is a lot of administration and tech to be done before a webinar, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it now.

  • I write emails to invite followers to the webinar. I also write emails to those who register. A couple of days before the webinar I write reminders. To have everything ready I also compose the emails to send after the webinar – the link to the replay and a feedback email. During this period I also answer a lot of emails from followers. For one webinar I send roughly 2500 emails. I use an email marketing and automation platform to help me with this.
  • I set up the registration – a registration page, registration form and automations to send the right emails to the right people in the right order.
  • To show glimpses of what you can expect from the webinar I make a promo video with the most important information.
  • I also publish a blog post that covers the topic of the webinar.

Rehearsing

I want to have control of what I am doing and usually rehearse three times before a webinar. I do this as if it were a real webinar – I set up my studio and record a private live stream. This way I rehearse both the webinar and the studio set-up. It also means that I can watch the live stream afterwords to see if I need to make any adjustments. In the rehearsing phase I can fine tune the order of things and placement of tools in the studio.

As part of the rehearsing I decide on what to wear for the live stream. I want to wear something handspun, preferable from the breed I talk about in the webinar. It should also be in a colour that contrasts to the yarn I’m spinning. A light sweater behind white fiber wouldn’t be a good idea. As a former Sign Language interpreter I am always aware of the importance of good contrast between my hands, the wool and the background behind them (=what I wear).

I chose a shawl in Jämtland wool for the Jämtland webinar. I carefully planned how I wore the shawl so that the tail wouldn’t be in the way of or cover the fiber hand.

The webinar studio

I use a king size bed sheet for a backdrop, a studio light, some extra lights and a microphone. That’s it. It seems like a very simple studio set-up, and it is. However, every time I need to transform my home office to a live stream studio it is quite a lot to remember.

A room with a desk with computer screens, studio light, script holders and baskets of wool and spinning tools.
The studio is set up for a live stream!

The image above seems like your ordinary messy home office. All of the things and gadgets in the image have a purpose in the live stream, though. Let’s go through it:

The studio map.
  • The backdrop provides a calm background. It also covers the busy shelf and whiteboard behind it. A while ago I bought real grown-up curtains to keep the sun out. The window faces west and in the light months I need to pull the blinds down as well. In May or June I even place a parasol outside the window to block the sunlight.
  • The microphone is essential for a good and comfortable sound. Do pay attention to the fancy pop filter. I used to have a bug with a chord, but I didn’t like being attached to the computer while at the same time spinning. Just imagine the amount of things that could go wrong! I bought this new microphone for money I got from my patrons. My 17-ear-old is very envious.
  • Light is of course essential too. I have light from above and from the front plus my studio ring light from the side. These three light sources together minimize the shadows and give a pleasant picture.
  • I place the chair as far back as I can so that my lap shows. In my webinars I do a lot of carding and if I should sit closer to the screen you wouldn’t be able to see the cards. I need to sit quite high for my lap to show and therefore I need a foot support.
  • During the webinar I use lots of tools like cards and combs and I need them organized and close at hand. I keep the wool in a basket, my tools in another basket, the knits under the stool and processed wool in a bowl on the table. I use a felt board to display wool and yarn on.
  • The script is of course important too. I make one page for each section of the webinar and everything is organized in mind maps.
  • The computer screen is where I can see myself as you see me. I can also see the chat window where you write nice things and clever questions.
Mindmap script for my Värmland webinar.

And we’re live!

Ok, it’s Webinar Day. This means that I spend all day in a daze. I am a nervous wreck and quite annoying to the rest of the family. I go through the Imposter syndrome over and over and again. Who am I to do this? Why should people listen to me? But I also tell myself that I know what I am doing and that I am well prepared.

I set up the studio one hour before show time, which is way too early. But it helps me deal with my emotions which skip up and down like balls in a pinball machine. Hopefully I remember to spend the extra time meditating to ground myself. Ten minutes before the webinar starts I start the live stream to check sound and video. It also gives me a chance to chat with the early birds and get comfortable in the studio.

I come early to the webinar and spin with the first viewers.

When I start the webinar I am totally there, with you. It is a great feeling to have you there with me while at the same time in so many different parts of the world.

By the time I do the live webinar I am quite familiar with the script and I’m not nervous. I have prepared enough to know what I am talking about and how to make smooth transitions between different sections. What I am not prepared for, though, are your questions. You can ask me anything live and I quickly need to find a reasonably intelligent and suitable reply. Everybody doesn’t have the same frame of reference and I may need to explain and elaborate on terms or concepts I present. This is quite an adventure and I learn something new every time.

The chat window is full of love and dedicated spinners.

It’s funny, the hour before I start goes so slowly and once it’s webinar o’clock time flies. I have such a lovely time with you, doing what I love. All the hours I have spent up to this moment have had a purpose and paid off. The feedback I get from you is overwhelming.

When things go wrong

Sometimes things don’t go as I have planned. Everything is rehearsed and structured, but when something happens during the live stream I need to make fast decisions. Usually it is the tech that goes wrong. For every webinar I make the nagging sensation is always there: Will the tech goddesses treat me well this time? The very thing that makes this kind of production even possible is also the thing that can totally ruin it.

On one of my first webinars I couldn’t for the life of me find the go live button when the webinar was supposed to start. I got really frustrated and didn’t know what to do. I ended up postponing the webinar 24 hours and by then I knew what to do.

In the Jämtland webinar this past Sunday all started well. I got in early and chatted with people. Three minutes before scheduled time the webinar was shut down by YouTube due to “Violation of community guidelines”. I still don’t know why. I tried to get back and to move the webinar to Facebook, but with no luck. Instead I scheduled a new webinar for 24 hours later. To be on the safe side I recorded a private live stream (Monday morning 6:30 am) to send if the second try would fail. But everything worked out and we had a lovely Monday webinar.

It’s a wrap! The webinar is finished and I am full of endorphins.

Post production

When the webinar is over I am totally exhausted and at the same time overjoyed and full of endorphins. I finish the replay email and add links I have mentioned in the webinar or that viewers have asked for. I answer more emails, usually lovely ones. A week or two later I send out the last email asking for feedback to make future webinars better.

I hope to see you in upcoming webinars! I plan to make at least one more before summer.

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!

Jämtland wool

The newest sheep breed in Sweden is Jämtland sheep. The purpose of the breed is to have a meat sheep with wool that can be a Swedish alternative to the tons of merino wool we import from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. This is the fifth part of my breed study of Swedish sheep breeds from the spinner’s perspective. Previous posts have been about Gotland wool, Gute wool, Dalapäls wool and Värmland wool.

This Sunday, March 22nd at 5 pm CET I will host a free live breed study webinar on Jämtland wool! I will share my experiences with the wool from a spinner’s perspective.

I am aware that this is very short notice. However, considering the situation in the world, I think we need a live webinar now more than ever.

A framed board with a wool staple and a tuft of carded wool. Letters saying Jämtland wool at the top of the board.
Whole year’ staple of Jämtland wool.

About Jämtland sheep

Stop the waste

A lot of Swedish wool is being wasted. At the same time we import tons of merino wool from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The owner of a Swedish wool manufacturer in Jämtland in Sweden questioned this system and wondered if there was a way to use Swedish wool for his products. The problem, though, was that Swedish wool was coarser and would be scratchy in the next-to-skin garments that his company made. The idea of a Swedish alternative to wool import was born.

A new breed

As a result of this, a project started in 2004 where merino ewes were imported and crossed with fine fibered Svea ewes. Svea sheep is a Swedish meat breed which is a cross between the meat breed Texel and the Swedish landrace finewool sheep. Swedish finewool does have some merino in them from crossing with the merino sheep that we had in Sweden in the 18th century. In 2010 the Jämtland sheep was presented as a new breed at the world merino conference.

A pile of fine fibered white wool with high crimp.
Unwashed Jämtland wool.

Jämtland sheep has increased in popularity as both a meat bread and a wool breed. Statistics say that there were 382 breeding ewes in 20 flocks in 2019. Rams weigh 90–120 kg and ewes 80–110 kg. This is a lot heavier than the landraces and conservation breeds I have presented in earlier breed studies. The micron count lies between 17 and 23.

Long locks of very fine wool and lots of crimp.
Jämtland wool has the crimpiest crimp.

Fashion industry

Jämtland wool has become very sought after in the fashion industry. Several companies have produced clothes made in Jämtland wool. One problem is that the demand is bigger than the supply. A clothes manufacturer may want larger quantities than the sheep farmers can provide. The garments that have been sold have been produced in small quantities with social, environmental and ethical aspects considered.

Knitters and spinners

Many of the Swedish spinning mills today produce yarn with Jämtland wool and the products are popular among knitters.

Jämtland fleece is also very popular among handspinners in Sweden. In the past few Fleece Championships Jämtland wool has been placed in its own category. The shepherdess I usually buy my Jämtland fleeces from probably has more championship medals than she can count.

Jämtland wool characteristics

Two hands holding a grey long fine fibered staple of wool. Two piles of fleece in the background.
Jämtland wool at the 2019 Swedish fleece championships. Whole year’s fleece to the left, autumn shearing to the right. The white fleece got a silver medal in the Jämtland category.

Jämtland wool is very fine fibered and has high crimp. In contrast to most merino, Jämtland wool also has a beautiful shine. The staples are uniform over the length of the staple and over the body of the sheep.

A microscope picture of wool fibers. Fine and even.
Jämtland fibers enlarged.

Since Jämtland sheep has a lot of merino in them the fleece is generally very high in lanolin, at least compared to the Swedish landraces I’m used to.

I have bought all my Jämtland wool from Birgitta Ericsson, a shepherdess who covers her sheep and shears them once a year. The cover is probably necessary to be able to manage a whole year’s fleece, especially considering the high degree of lanolin.

A dark grey fleece wit fine fibers.
Unwashed staples of grey whole year’s Jämtland wool. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The superpowers

When I see a fleece I want to get to know it and find its superpowers. I look at the different characteristics and choose three that I feel represent the fleece and that I want to let shine in a yarn and garment. The main characteristics I see in Jämtland wool are:

  • The softness of the fibers. They are dying to be worn next to your skin.
  • The crimp. It is hard to take your eyes off the crimp of these staples and I want to make the crimp justice in the yarn I spin.
  • The shine. Jämtland wool generally has a lovely shine that in my experience is unusual in this fine type of wool.

Preparation and spinning Jämtland wool

Washing

Before I go into wool preparation I need to talk a bit about washing. I wash Jämtland wool a lot more brutally than any of the other breeds I spin (I wash other Swedish breeds in water only). Now that I have learned the terminology in English I can safely say that I scour Jämtland wool. I bundle up the long staples and tie them with yarn and put them in a pot. I use lots of detergent and hot water. When the wool is dry I can remove the yarn ties. This method takes away enough lanolin for me to be able to handle the fibers without too much fuss.

Combing and worsted spinning

The first fleeces of Jämtland wool I processed I combed. To avoid breakage I flick carded the ends of the staples first and hand-combed with my mini-combs. This resulted in beautiful, lofty bird’s nests with lots of bounce. I spun these fluffy balls worsted on my spinning wheel.

One issue with fine fibers like these in combination with the dry air in large parts of Sweden is static electricity. When I comb the long fibers they point in every direction possible and make the aligning of the fibers very difficult. I solve this by spraying a mixture of water, coconut oil and a drop of detergent on the staples. This calms them down a bit. The coconut oil is soluble in low temperatures and comes off easily when you wash the yarn.

If there is still a lot of lanolin in the fibers I place the bird’s nests near the fireplace to make it more fluid and cooperative.

2-ply laceweight Jämtland yarn, combed and worsted spun.

From the fold magic

One day I decided to try to spin the long Jämtland staples from the fold. The length was perfect and I thought why not? The second the fibers merged into the drafting triangle from its folded position over my index finger it dawned on me: This is how this Jämtland wool wants to be spun.

A hand holding fibers folded over the index finger. Fibers are going from both sides of the fiber into the spinning twist.
Spinning from the fold. The fibers come into the twist in a wider angle. Since they come into the twist from the middle of the fibers they strive to unfold.

When you spin from the fold you double the staple over your index finger and spin from the middle if the fibers. What happens when you spin from the fold is this:

  • The fibers come into the drafting triangle from a wider angle. In this, more air coms into the yarn.
  • The folded fibers strive to unfold, which also results in more air in the yarn.
Flick carded staples of whole year’s Jämtland wool spun from the fold on a supported spindle and 2-plied.

Spinning from the fold is not a spinning technique, it is just a different way to hold the yarn. Thus, you can spin both woolen and worsted from the fold.

Five pieces of yarn on a board and a staple of wool. The leftmost yarn is sleek and thin. The yarns become more fuzzy and airy towards the right.
Different preparation and spinning of Jämtland wool. From the left: 2-ply combed and spun worsted on a suspended spindle, 2-ply spun worsted from the fold on a suspended spindle, 2-ply spun woolen from the fold on a supported spindle, 3-ply spun woolen from the fold on a supported spindle, 2-ply spun woolen from hand-carded rolag on a supported spindle.

Carding and woolen spinning

I would not recommend carding fibers in this whole year’s length. The fine fibers would most probably break and result in nepps in the yarn. Shorter fibers would be excellent to hand-card with fine cards. The fine fibers and high crimp would be excellent for a soft woolen spun yarn.

Use

I have used Jämtland wool for lots of different purposes – sweaters, half-mitts and shawls. It is perfect for next-to-skin garments and accessories. Due to the fine fibers Jämtland wool is not suitable for projects that will wear a lot.

A woman standing against a tree. She is wearing a grey sweater with white sleeve ends and white hem. The yoke has a stranded knitting spinning wheel pattern.
Grey yarn from the grey Jämtland fleece above. White yarn from Swedish fihewool. Photo by Dan Waltin

The dark grey yarn in the sweater above is worsted spun from hand-combed tops of Jämtland wool. You can see the whole process in this video (available in Swedish too). I knit the sweater in 2015 and I recently had to mend the elbows.

A woman walking on a path. She is wearing a thin asymmetrical turquoise shawl with drape.
Laceweight worsted spun Jämtland yarn in Martina Behm’s Viajante design. Photo by Dan Waltin

In my experience Jämtland wool looks best in fine yarns – lace weight or fingering weight. The shawl above is spun as a lace weight. The shawl below is the leftover yarn from the shawl above.

A girl holding up a turquoise lace shawl. The shawl has a spider at the top.
I got some lace weight yarn left and made a spider shawl for my daughter back in 2015. Photo by Dan Waltin

Live webinar!

This Sunday, March 22nd at 5 pm CET (world clock here) I will host a live breed study webinar about Jämtland wool from a spinner’s perspective. In the webinar I will talk briefly about the breed in Sweden, wool characteristics and how I process, spin and use Jämtland wool. I will use Jämtland wool during the webinar and show you glimpses of how I process and spin the wool.

Even if you think you will never come across Jämtland wool this is still an opportunity to learn more about wool in general. The breed study webinar will give you tools to understand different wool types and apply your knowledge to breeds and wool types closer to you.

This is a wonderful chance for me to meet you (in the chat window at least, I won’t be able to see you) and for you to see me live and unedited. The previous live breed study webinars I have done have been great successes. I really look forward to seeing you again in this webinar.

You can register even if you can’t make it to the live event. I will send the replay link to everyone who registers for the webinar. Remember, the only way to get access to the webinar (live or replay) is to register.

Register for the webinar here!

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!

Sheep festival

This past weekend I attended the sheep festival in Kil in Värmland, Sweden. It is an annual event that attracts thousands of visitors. This was the 14th festival. The aim of the festival is to spread knowledge, inspire and facilitate networking with the four legs of the sheep as a foundation – wool, skin, meat and the sheep as a landscape manager.

The sheep organization

The first festival was held in the local industry building in Kil in 2006, but after a few years it had to move to a larger venue. It has since then been held at a local school when the children had their annual sports holiday in the end of February. The festival has grown from just a few hundred visitors the first year to somewhere around 10000 from all over Sweden in 2020. The town of Kil has 12000 inhabitants.

Everyone in Kil is involved in the festival and the preparations run through the whole year. The most significant symbol of the festival is the “tussris” – a bundle of twigs with wads of coloured wool. Every sports team in town is assembling wad twig bundles to decorate the town and the festival. The Red Cross is in charge of the wardrobe, other organizations are handling the entry fee, other volunteers are helping out as hostesses, serving coffee, cooking, serving, building, promoting, housing and literally breathing the festival. In addition to all the volunteers, several families opened their homes to traveling visitors. I stayed with a lovely family who moved out of their bedrooms to accommodate me and three other festival visitors for three nights.

Here is a short clip from the Swedish news from the sheep festival. You can see me and my embroidered backpack around 13 seconds into the clip.

The Golden Ram award

Every year The Golden Ram is awarded someone who is active in some aspect of the sheep. This year the prize was awarded to Fia Söderberg who is the founder of the Swedish wool agency – a digital marketplace where you can buy and sell Swedish wool. She is also the founder and host of the Swedish wool podcast (in Swedish).

Two women standing on a stage. They are holding up a certificate and a cheque. A sheep on a screen behind them.
Fia Söderberg receiving the Golden Ram award and 10000 Swedish Kronor ($1106/970 €).

While spinning, I listened to Fia’s acceptance speech about how the Swedish wool agency came about. From a frustration over wasted Swedish wool to a flourishing wool market where crafters and sheep owners meet in the name of wool in just a few years. That is quite an achievement and the festival organization couldn’t have picked a more worthy person to receive the award.

Activities on the festival

Around 150 vendors come for the festival, selling yarn, wool, meat, skins, tools for crafting, hand made items and much, much more. Visitors can also take classes, workshops, watch shows and demos and listen to talks about different aspects of sheep and products from sheep.

Braids of coloured wool yarn in a scale from green to pink.
Wool embroidery yarn in every colour.

I didn’t take many photos, but if I had, they still wouldn’t have made the festival justice. But if you wish, you can imagine pictures of yarn, wool, sheep, skins and textiles here.

A knit wizard

I came to the festival with Sara Wolf, who also goes by the alias A knit Wizard, and her husband. Sara is a writer who is working on a book called Knit (spin) Sweden and I assist her with some of the spinning parts. They flew from Boston, landed in Stockholm, rented a car and picked me up on the way. It was lovely to finally meet her. We have had so many conversations about Swedish wool via email and now we could continue that conversation in person. You can read Sara’s blog post about the sheep festival here.

Sara gave me a present that took my breath away. A Turkish spindle. A real Turkish spindle she bought from an antique dealer when she lived in Turkey. It was made around the end of the 19th century.

An antique Turkish spindle with crossing wings. One wing slides into the other through a rectangular hole. The spindle is ornamented with carved patterns.
My new old Turkish spindle is a beauty.

When I look at the Turkey page in the spindle typology it looks very much like the spindles called Kirman – crossed wings with a short shaft. I need to make myself a shaft for this pearl. It looks just like my modern Jenkins spindles, only a wee bit heavier – this one weighs 93 grams!

An antique Turkish spindle with crossing wings. One wing slides into the other through a rectangular hole. The spindle is ornamented with carved patterns.
I wonder how many people have spun on this spindle.

Sara had a talk at the festival where she discussed her findings and conclusions about the history of knitting in Sweden. She also described how and why she was looking for Swedish wool. It was a very interesting speech and I became even more proud of being a part of her book.

People

Eventhough there is a lot of wool to fondle and a beautiful focus on all the aspects of how sheep are so useful to us and to nature, one of the most rewarding things about these kinds of events is meeting people. Don’t get me wrong, I am very much an introvert who takes care not to go to fairs and events with lots of people, but meeting and talking to people one on one gives me so much.

The first person I ran into was the shepherdess Birgitta. Her Härjedal/Åsen crossbred gave me the multicoloured fleece I am currently working on. I had brought a couple of skeins to show her what I had done. After all, I had got Birgitta’s trust to buy the fleece because I would be able to make the fleece justice in a way that no spinning mill would. She was truly happy to see the skeins and cuddle with them.

I met Kari, another lovely shepherdess who is a crafter herself. She won eight medals in the 2019 fleece championships for her Rya, Gotland, Finull, Leicester and landrace crossbred fleeces. She pays close attention to the fleece quality when she decides which animals to pair up for breeding and she obviously gets successful results. I always try to connect with shepherdesses whose fleece buy at the championships auction. For me it is important to show them how I continue with spinning what they have started with the care of their sheep.

A person who has been very important to me when learning about wool is Kia. She has worked for many years as a wool classifier in Norway and she is the one I turn to with wool questions. Every now and then I text her with a wool conundrum and she can always give me a good reply and teach me new things. We haven’t met many times, but we made up for it in Kil as we sat for three hours just talking and having a lovely time in the quiet vendor’s lounge. I bought a loupe from her and I will write more about that in an upcoming post.

A microscope image of wool fibers
Swedish Svärdsjö wool under the microscope.

I also met lots of other friends of wool. Some who I had met before on other wool events and some who introduced themselves to me and told me how they appreciated my work. Encounters like these always warm my heart. It gives me a feeling of connection and context in this very small world of wool and spinning and lots of inspiration and empowerment to continue my work.

Fleece market

The last day of our visit was the day of the fleece market, and naturally I wanted to grab a good fleece or two. I ended up with four. Fortunately I had brought some vacuum bags for easier transport.

Sara had talked about how she was amazed by Rya wool. I got inspired by that so two half fleeces came home with me, one white and one in grey tones. I bought them from Kari as I knew she would provide really high quality fleeces.

A pile of shiny wool in white, grey and black.
Washed rya locks in all the greys.

I also found a shepherdess who had the loveliest traditional style Värmland fleeces. After all, we were in the county of Värmland so it would only natural to buy a Värmland fleece. I got two extremely soft fleeces – one in shades of grey and one in rosy brown tones. The ewes were four and six years old and I couldn’t believe how soft they were.

A row of shiny locks in different staple types from white to dark grey.
Unwashed staples from the Värmland ewe Rutan, born in 2014. She has all shades of grey and many different staple types.

My last fleece was a lovely Åsen fleece in a very light grey with some black tips. Soft, airy and shiny. I had bought fleece from this shepherdess before and I knew I would get good quality from her.

Staples of white wool with black tips.
Unwashed locks from Åsen lamb with fluffy white undercoat and black outercoat.

All fleeces have now been washed. It is too cold outside for a fermented suint bath, so I have just washed them in warm water with three rinses, no chemicals added.


All in all it was a wonderful weekend with lots of new inspiration and ideas buzzing in my head. It did take a lot of energy, though, and this past week I have been very tired. When you read this post I have shut out the world and gone to a mini yoga retreat. Over and out.

Happy spinning!


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