Old blog post: Fleece happens

Last week I indicated that I might not be able to write a blog post this week. I have been a good girl and not bent over backwards to squeeze a blog post in. But I did pick out an old blog post to give you something to read if you want to.

On November 20th 2021, one year ago, I wrote about what I do when fleece happens. You know, when a fleece just comes to you, without you knowing what really happened. The fall shearing is usually the highlight of the year for many spinners in Sweden, fleece happens a lot this time of year. This autumn, for example, fleece has happened thrice for me.

In the post I write about what I do with a fleece when it comes to me, in terms of washing, how I prepare it for storing and what documentation I do, how and where.

I will spend the weekend on a gym instructor course for the gym chain where I am an instructor. It will be tough, and I’m really excited about it.

P.S. A week ago I was interviewed by Daniel Howell of Folk Craft revival about spinning. Listen to the podcast episode here!

Happy reading!


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 missanything!
  • 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 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.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.

Connection

Through learning, sharing and making I often feel a strong connection to the spinning students in my classroom as well as to past and present spinners around me.

Just recently I taught a two-day course in floor spindle spinning. There were seven students in the classroom, with varying degrees of spinning experience. Through wool, wool preparation, spinning and learning we all felt a strong connection to each other as spinners.

Knitting in my hands and teaching on my schedule. The Gandhi quote on my trolley reads “Every revolution of the wheel spins peace, goodwill and love”.

Connection through sheep

My very generous friend Lena was one of the students. She lives near the church school where I taught the class and had brought a soup for us to share at lunch break. She had also brought beautiful raw fleece from her gene bank flock of the Swedish conservation breed dalapäls sheep that we prepared and spun in the course.

Lena’s dalapäls sheep. Screenshot from video shot in 2019.

Lena told us tales about the sheep and the shearing. Usually she shears the sheep herself with hand sheers, which tends to take around an hour for one sheep, but this year she had booked a professional shearer to do the job.

Seed pods with nasty barbs.

Just a few days before the shearing the sheep had walked through a patch of some sort of plant that spread its seed pods with the help of barbs. Suddenly all sheep were covered in nasty little seed pods that had caught the fleece with the barbs. Lena had to brush every sheep for an hour each to get rid of as many seeds as possible. Even if there were still some seeds left, the brushing left the shorn fleeces very clean.

The light room is ready for day two of the spinning course, with Lena’s dalapäls wool in the middle of the circle.

Through Lena’s stories we connected to the wool in the basket in the middle of our spinning circle, as well as to the sheep that had given us their fleeces. We all carded and the same rolags, with the oh, so soft undercoat fluffing up the shape and the shiny outercoat armouring and adding strength.

You can read more about dalapäls wool here.

Reflection

At the end of each day and/or course I always encourage my students to reflect over the day in quietude. We sit there in a silent room while they make notes of what has happened during the day, catching and developing all the thoughts, questions, aha-moments and frustrations that are still vividly floating around in the room. I watch them as they write, stop, think and write again. I can see their minds settling as their thoughts take a written form.

When all notebooks have closed and the students sighed in the calming silence I ask if anyone has something they want to share: What have you learned? What was difficult? What are you proud of? The students are generous, sharing personal insights, struggles and successes: “I finally carded an even rolag!”, “The joins were so difficult to get right.” or “When I learned how to open up the twist everything became much easier.”.

Connection through learning

On this course one of the students, a total beginner, said she so enjoyed the connection we shared in the course. Learning together, connecting to each other, back to spinners before us and out to spinners beside us. She was proud of having given herself the time to learn something new.

I too experience a deep connection in the courses. Just like this student said, to each other, to the spinners before and beside us, but also to the wool, to the sheep, to the making and to our learning process. The students in the classroom all have different spinning backgrounds, skill levels, learning styles and learning pace. Still, we all take part in each other’s joys, frustrations and vulnerabilities with kindness and compassion.

We’re in this together

After all, we are all there, in that same room, with the same wool and the same tools. In that room we take that wool and those tools and make our connected, collective, but still individual journeys. As soon as the first chafing of being in a new context has settled, we find trust and a connection to the group. We are in this together. During the course we are making, learning, frustrating, progressing and exploring together. We may be vulnerable in the new learning context, but by having an open, generous and curious mind we can disclose our fears and struggles, explore together and learn through both our own and each other’s experiences.

In my classroom I want to make the learning a connected experience. As I see or hear struggle or success, I encourage exploration, articulation and reflection of what happened. How can we all learn more from this? There is such a power in learning in and through a warm and safe connection. We give ourselves time to learn.

As the day settles

When we had finished the first day I went home with Lena to her house. We talked for hours over a sweet dinner she had prepared for us while the fire mumbled quietly in the background. I picked up a two-end knitting project with spindle-spun dalapäls yarn. The yarn reminded me of that connection we shared to spinners before, beside and after us.

Raw fleece from Lena’s dalapäls sheep Nehne.

When I went home the following afternoon I had an extra paper bag with me, with the soft and shiny fleece from Lena’s dalapäls sheep Nehne, reminding me of all the connections we shared during the course. The connections will be spun into the yarn, passing the sweet memories on to the touch of my two-end knitted sleeves.

The fleece from the dalapäls sheep Nehne has been washed in water and is drying in front of our fireplace.

The following day I washed Nehne’s fleece that I got from Lena. It has been drying in front of the fireplace, smelling faintly of sheep. She reminds me of the course and the connection we all shared in the classroom. I even enjoy picking out the last remaining seed pods.

Next weekend I will attend a gym instructor course and can’t promise a blog post.

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 missanything!
  • 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 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.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.

Picking fleece

The first step I take with a fleece after I have washed it is to pick it. Staple by staple I pull the tip ends out of the fleece until I have picked myself through the whole fleece. Today I discuss the advantages of picking fleece and why I don’t skip this step.

When I first learned to spin and process my wool I was taught to pick it. Somewhere along the way I omitted this step, for some odd reason. Recently, perhaps a year ago or so, I started picking my new fleeces again. There are so many advantages of picking fleece and I don’t want to omit this step.

Here is a short summary of the steps I take when I pick a fleece:

  • When the fleece has dried after washing I lay a newspaper on the floor and prepare a paper bag where I write the breed of the fleece and when it was shorn.
  • I take a bundle of fleece in one hand and search out the tip ends with the other. With the holding hand as resistance I pull the tips straight out.
  • If I see any vegetable matter I remove this. Some will probably fall to the ground as you pick through the fleece.
  • I also remove felted parts, solidified tips, heavily dirty sections and poo.
  • I take notes of characteristics of the fleece and any ideas I get for handling it in preparation and spinning.
  • When I have picked through the whole fleece I put it in the paper bag and either store it or go on with processing the fleece.
  • All that I have removed will be used. I generally put it in the compost or in my Bokashi bucket.

Model: A Tabacktorp fleece

The model I use in this post about picking fleece is a Swedish Tabacktorp fleece. It’s one of the rarest breeds in Sweden. The official statistics say that in 2021 there were a total of 25 breeding ewes in seven flocks in Sweden.

My friend Sandy of Swedish Fibre was kind enough to let me buy 1 kilo of her Tabacktorp treasure. The content of the kilo I bought could be from one individual or from several.

Picked locks of Tabacktorp wool in my ullkränku (wool basket). Two saigkorgar (baskets for carded wool) in the background. Both basket models are traditional from Gotland.

I will make a breed study blog post and webinar about this fleece later on. For the sake of this blog post the Tabacktorp fleece is just modeling for my picking demonstration.

Air in

When I pick a fleece I hold a bundle of the washed fleece gently in one hand and pick out staple by staple from the tip end. The staples are usually slightly interlaced at the cut end and picking the staples will open up the cut ends and invite air in between the fibers.

10 grams each of unpicked (left) and picked (right) tabacktorp wool.

Getting air into the fibers makes the upcoming preparation steps easier – if the cut ends are detangled there will be less strain on my body and on the fibers. Picking the fleece will thus reduce the amount of waste compared to an unpicked fleece.

The staples in the Tabacktorp fleece are quite defined and untangled already. Some fleeces are held together to different degrees at the cut end throughout the whole fleeces, but this one almost falls to pieces when I pick it up.

Stuff out

Picking the fleece also gives me the opportunity to remove any stuff I don’t want in it. This could be vegetable matter, short fibers, seconds cuts, felted parts and poo. A lot of stuff will fall out just by the air coming in when I pick the fleece. Other stuff will be easy to remove manually as I pick my way from staple to staple.

The most obvious vegetable matter is easy to remove in the picking stage if it doesn’t fall out on its own as I pick staple by staple.

When I have finished picking the whole fleece the stuff I don’t want is gone (resting cozily on my garden beds) and I’m left with clean and open full-length staples only. The fleece is ready to be used.

This fleece didn’t have very much vegetable matter in it, some juniper needles. No felted parts and almost no poo or dirty parts. It could be due to a very clean fleece overall or to a thorough skirting and rough sorting by the sheep owner.

Establishing a relationship

As I pick my way through the fleece I establish my relationship to it. To me it is important to learn as much as I can about not only the fleece, but also the sheep. In the newly shorn format that I get the fleece in it’s as close to its on the hoof-version as possible. In the unprocessed fleece I get the chance to explore what the fleece did for the sheep. Picking out leaves, needles and grass gives me an image of where the sheep has grazed, what kind of plants that have been in her living room. I get to tread in the hooves of the sheep.

As I pick my wool I establish a relationship with it.

Years ago when I had a thing for Shetland wool I got beautiful fleeces from Shetland Woolbrokers. The stuff I found in those fleeces made my heart tingle, it felt so special to be able to go back to Shetland in my mind. I didn’t find much vegetable matter in the fleeces, but some peat fell out of them occasionally. Especially on the sheep’s sleeping side.

That kind of information is not necessary for me from a strict spinning perspective, but it gives me an image, a feeling for the sheep’s life and surroundings. And with that important connection to the sheep I feel a closeness to the sheep and a deeper responsibility to make her justice. She has grown a beautiful fleece and made it available to me. It’s my responsibility to treat it with the humility and respect it deserves and spin its most beautiful yarn.

A first glimpse

Looking at the wool off the hoof in its on-the-hoof state as staples I get the chance to get to know its characteristics.

Visual

Visual aspects can be

  • colour
  • staple length
  • staple type. To me the staple type is connected with the outercoat to undercoat ratio. Is there mainly outercoat in the staples, equal amounts of outercoat and undercoat or mainly undercoat?
  • crimp – are the staples straight, wavy, curly or crimpy?
  • openness – are the fibers bundled together in the staples or more open?
  • evenness – are the staples more or less similar over the fleece or variegated?
  • an approximate relationship between outercoat and undercoat, if applicable.

What I find when I look at the list above are not good or bad, just information I get from looking at the fleece. Information that I take into account in further processing.

Tactile

I can see a lot from just looking at the fleece, but it’s with my hands in it that I experience its more subtle characteristics. When I dig my hands into the fleece, I can get more tactile information like

  • How the staples detach from the cut ends. Is it easy or do I need to struggle to pull the staples out of the staple bundle? Sometimes there is a resistance or even sort of a felted carpet right at the cut ends. Whether it is from the shearing itself or from when in the growth period the sheep was shorn or something else I couldn’t tell. But if I do have to struggle it tells me that I need to take measures to ease that struggle as I prepare the fleece. A struggle indicates risk of strain, in both my muscles and the fibers.
  • What is the bounce like in the fleece? If I take a bundle of staples and squeeze them, how do they bounce back? This can be an indication of how the yarn will behave as I spin it and how it blooms after I have finished it.
  • How do the fibers relate to one another? If I draft from the cut end of a staple, how is the give in the draft? Does it come easily or do I need to struggle?

I can get lots of visual, more quantitative information from the fleece, but with the more qualitative feedback in my hands I get to know it on a more subtle level.

Sort?

With the information – quantitative and qualitative – I get from the staples as I pick my way through them I get an overview of how it is composed. With that information I can make decisions on whether to sort it into different categories or not, and which categories.

I can choose to sort by

  • Colour. There can be difference in colour over the body of the sheep or between undercoat and outercoat. Sometimes over the stretch of a fiber. This is an interesting way to sort a fleece. A multicolour fleece can give you lots of ways to play.
  • Staple length. For certain projects I may want evenness in the staple length. I can sort a fleece on that basis.
  • Staple type: In dual coats there can be different undercoat to outercoat ratios which can be a parameter to sort by.
  • Coarseness/fineness: Differences in fineness is not uncommon.
  • Crimp: Some fleeces with lots of variegation can have different degrees of crimp on different parts of the body.
  • Fiber type: Do I want to separate undercoat from outercoat?

My Tabacktorp fleece has lots of different staple types that I could easily sort and use for different purposes. Still, they are quite even in length and my plan at the moment is to card it all together, taking advantage of their collected characteristics in one yarn rather than go for individual characteristics in several smaller sections.

Store

When I have picked my fleece it’s ready for storage. My fleece queue is long, my oldest fleeces are from the autumn 2021 shearing. All the fleeces in my storage are picked. When I invite the oldest one to dance it’s all dressed up and ready – with far less vegetable matter, clean, easy to work with and perhaps even sorted into categories. It may be a bit flatter than the last time I saw it, but it will puff up again.

One bag of picked Tabacktorp wool shorn autumn 2022, ready for my wool storage to wait its turn in my fleece queue.

Before I store the picked fleece I make a few notes on my Ravelry page about the wool. Discoveries I have made through the picking such as how it drafts, if I have struggled with it, Perhaps any thoughts I have of spinning or what to make of the spun yarn.

My Tabacktorp wool now sleeps cozily with equally picked Åland, gute, dalapäls and other fleeces in my sofa bed. And when it’s Tabacktorp’s turn in line I will thank myself for having taken the time – and joy – to pick it, get to know it and make notes about it characteristics.

Your wool has a lot to teach you. Listen to it.

If you are a patron (or want to become one) I have just released my November video postcard where I demonstrate how I pick my Tabacktorp fleece.

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 missanything!
  • 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 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.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.

Little bands

I have several little bands in my project basket that are only half-finished. The other week I decided to actually finish six little bands, in four different techniques.

My problem is that inspiration jumps me from behind and craves all my attention and I jump from one unfinished object to another. On the one hand I like having parallel projects. If I get tired of one I can always work on another and then get the mojo back for the first one. Working in different techniques is also a good way to stay our of strain. But I can also get very stressed knowing I have several unfinished projects in my basket, not to mention all my ideas for unstarted projects. It feels very good to finish some sweet little bands.

Little bands

Once you start weaving bands you realize there is always a need for one. Even if you don’t necessarily know the practical purpose of the band as you create it there will come a time when that very band is the perfect candidate for a job.

Six little bands have been the loveliest companions on inner and outer journeys this summer.

The more obvious purpose of the band is of course the making of it – spending time with a small, often handspun, project, watching it grow into an actual something and enjoying the weaving process without having to drag a loom around. All I need is a couple of sticks and I’m ready to dive into the process.

One of the sweet things about little bands is the portability. I weave all my bands with a backstrap loom – just a couple of sticks, a belt of some sort around my waist and something to hook the back end of the warp with and I’m ready to weave. I have spent time weaving in cars, trains, parks and office coffee breaks on both inner and outer journeys.

Recently I have also learned to appreciate my feet as part of my backstrap loom – I simply loop the end over my foot propped on top of my other knee and I weave until the foot falls asleep. Then I just change feet.

Three braids

First up in my collection of finished bands are three braided bands from odd balls of handspun wool yarn. Making braided bands is a technique I wanted to learn, so I tried different amounts of ends, different colours and different patterns.

Three 16-strand braids made of leftover balls of handspun wool yarn.

The first one was a simple grey band, I think I like that one the best. I also did one in blue with white patterning and one green with pink and white patterning. The pattern bands revealed my beginner’s mistakes, though, and they look quite sad. But it was a sweet technique to explore and I’m still happy with all of them.

You can see a lovely video where Sally Pointer braids a twelve-strand braid in linen yarn here. A twelve strand linen belt like Sally’s is on my to-craft list.

Nettle band

In July of last year and February this year I harvested nettles that I processed. There was a lot of waste, but I did manage to spindle spin two balls of nettle yarn, one tiny with the dew retted July nettles and one less tiny with the root retted February nettles. You can read more about the process in this blog post.

Throughout the processing and spinning the two retting techniques showed different colours. Once I had scoured them, though, the colour difference was smaller. Still, I used the dew retted yarn as a stripe down the middle of the warp. You can see it very subtly on the picture above.

Weaving the nettle band was lovely, it felt so good to make a little something out of material most people would frown upon. Weaving from weeds makes me feel rich, it’s sort of empowering to know that I can make something useful with my hands should I need to. And I do need, not of some material necessity but for the sake of making, to feel the making in the hands and the connection between hands and brain.

Scrap nettle yarn lucet cord

When I had finished the nettle band I had one tiny little ball left. I wanted to use as much of it as I could, so I decided upon a lucet cord. This is a very old technique that can be described as a 2-stitch I-cord. You use a fork-like tool called a lucet to hold the stitches. With this technique you can take advantage of all the length of the yarn except for the beginning and end.

A lucet cord made with the last little ball of handspun nettle yarn.

I have made a few lucet cords before, but only with wool yarn, which has some bounce, even in the worsted spun outercoat fiber yarns I have tried. Making it with plant fiber is a totally different story. Pulling the loop over the new yarn is more of a struggle and the yarn is less forgiving when it comes to uneven settling of the loop into the cord, but it was still very interesting. As always, spending some time with a material allows you to get to know it and how to work with its characteristics and its own mind.

Pick-up technique backstrap weaving band

I have a secret project going and for that I needed a band. I realized that it needed some extra sparkle, so I decided to make it with a pick-up technique. This takes a lot of time and is quite fiddly, so it’s not ideal for train rides or coffee breaks at work. But I did that anyway. I wove most of it at home, though, with full focus on the 16-row pattern.

One of the big perks of working with a pick-up technique is all the time you get to spend with the yarn. The technique is time-consuming, but that doesn’t bother me. Quite the contrary, I relish the moments when I get to dig my hands into the warp and pick the pattern up into the weave with a naturally curved wooden stick (or, I think I used a shawl pin made out of a twig). The natural materials in my hands make my skin sparkle with joy.

I spun the yarn from hand-teased Norwegian NKS wool on an Andean Pushka. You can see the process of spinning the yarn for this band in this video and the pick-up technique (for a different band) in this.

Little band in progress

When you read this I’m on a weekend getaway with Dan. Naturally, I needed a band to weave on the train. I warped, failed and rewarped, but all went well in the end. I used two colours of worsted spun outercoat wool from Swedish rya sheep from the same flock. The dark brown yarn is from the ram Bertil. The light fawn may be from the ewe Beppelina.

Band in progress: A wool band for an upcoming tie-on pocket project.

I will use the band for an upcoming tie-on pocket project I’m working on. I like playing with stripes in bands. There are so many possibilities and no right or wrong.

Weaving bands with handspun

Most of my handspun yarns are spun from Swedish breeds, and most of these breeds are prone to felting. This can make the yarns sticky, even the smoothest worsted spun outercoat yarns. A project that would be almost impossible to weave wide (like my Frida Chanel bag and loom stick wrap) is far less fiddly as a band. I do have to uncling the warp threads one by one for every new shuttling, but it doesn’t bother me at all when there are only 20–30 warp pairs. I’m just happy to see a brand new band take shape, ready to take its band space in the world.

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 missanything!
  • 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 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.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.

Pretty påsöm pocket

On my recent wool journey I started three påsöm projects. Since then I have been working for many hours on the first project, a pretty påsöm pocket. None of this is my handspun.

If you have read my blog posts during the past year you may have seen my growing interest in tie-on pockets. A very old accessory – necessity – to give women the freedom of bringing things with them just like men have, only men’s clothes have been equipped with built-in pockets for specific items. A tie-on pocket can be placed hidden or visible and contain anything the wearer’s heart desires. My previous pockets were made of two kitchen towels and an evening purse.

Pattern outline

On my wool traveling club’s recent påsöm embroidery wool journey we first learned how to sketch the bouquet of påsöm flowers on the surface (broad cloth in this case), play with templates and stencils and transferring the shapes onto the sketch. When we were happy with the design we filled in both inner and outer borders with a permanent marker.

Once I’m happy with the design, I fill in all outer and inner borders with a permanent marker.

I chose a dahlia (at least I think that’s what it is) for the main attraction, flanked with roses and rose buds. All surrounded with greenery. I’m actually not a very flowery person, but the abundance of this technique and tradition appeals to me.

Colours

The colour palette is usually very bright, with especially reds and pinks among shades of green for the leaves. An occasional spectrum of blues or oranges can make a visit every now and then, with accent details in white and yellow.

Planning the bouquet

Just like planning a regular bouquet, you need to plan for the påsöm bouquet too. What is the centerpiece and where do the stalks go. I started with the giant dahlia and went on with the smaller flowers and the three flowers on top of the back piece of the pocket. Then I added the greenery, just according to my sketch.

Filling and blinging

Once the main pattern is in place it’s time to fill out the empty spaces with some more greenery and an occasional bud or smaller flower. The key word is abundance. I really enjoyed this part. I needed to watch every angle, see where the stalks went and fill in the gaps in a way that seemed logical in relation to the bouquet.

Once there was no more room to fill out I started the blinging process – extra sparkle to fill out the smallest spaces.

To fill out and add bling I watched the photos from the course carefully, as well as the book I had bought earlier, Påsöm, by Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg (who was the teacher of our wool journey påsöm course). In the book as well as in the course there were lots of examples of old påsöm items to get inspiration from, as well as Anna-Karin’s new ones. From extra greenery incorporated in the flowers to bright stamens, pistils and unidentified leafy things to create depth and abundance.

Making a pocket

Once I felt finished with the filling and blinging it was time to make a pocket out of the embroidered broadcloth. I used a wild strawberry vintage cotton fabric for lining and inner pocket. A mora band (common in the traditional costume from the town of Mora) made a lovely edge of the pocket opening.

I joined the front plus lining with the back piece by hand with a backstitch, using a waxed linen thread. I like having the inner pocket for my mobile phone in the pocket. It keeps it steady and away from any accidents involving too close encounters with keys.

After I had finished the lining I steam pressed the embroidery. The result was quite astonishing, the stitches landed sweetly together in the flowers and leaves.

Close to the tradition

With the front and back neatly joined and the Mora band for the pocket opening I was getting closer to a finished pocket. But I wasn’t sure how to do the edging and the band. Anna-Karin’s påsöm pockets from Dala-Floda and the examples from the digital museum all had a buckle at the top to fasten in a belt or apron tie. The pockets were most commonly edged with velvet. I didn’t want either buckle or velvet, but I still wanted to stay within some reasonable closeness to the tradition.

I asked Anna-Karin for advice and she showed me pockets where mora bands had been sewn onto reindeer leather for the ties. She also showed me other items where reindeer leather had been used as edging and outer back piece.

I really liked the idea with soft reindeer leather for both edging, outer back piece and ties. So I ordered some reindeer leather while I finished the filling and blinging.

Reindeers and tongs

While the reindeer leather was indeed soft and flexible, it was still hard to work through with the needle. My solution was to use tongs to pull the needle through for a sweet waxed linen thread running stitch seam. Using the tongs worked very well, but it also took a lot of time to grab and let go of the tongs for every stitch. Still, in the end very much worth the effort.

It took a while to sew the 180 cm band back and forth. Edging the pocket was less complicated than I thought. The friction between the broad cloth and the suede side of the reindeer leather prevented the materials to slide from their position.

Even if the pocket is a mix between traditions from different villages in and around Dala-Floda it still looks reasonably traditional. At least in my beginner’s eyes.

Parting

As with any finished project, I felt a little sad when our journey together was over. Perhaps that is why I am such a project hoarder – I can’t seem to want to let them go. The process is such a sweet time to learn and dig deeper, to be in my hands and in the material. Even if the end product turns out beautifully and shows me a map of what I have learned, I do cherish the time I have spent together with the material, the crafting choreography and the mental process. Lucky me I have more pocket ideas in store.

A pretty påsöm pocket, ready to house sweet treasures.

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 missanything!
  • 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 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.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.

Påsöm embroidery wool journey

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

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

The påsöm tradition

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

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

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

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

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

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

The påsöm yarn and the stitch

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

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

Her royal Mossiness, queen of the conifer forest.

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

Transferring the pattern

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

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

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

The påsöm nitty-gritty

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

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

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

The projects

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

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

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

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

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

The setting

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

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

The company

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

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

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

Pending påsöm projects

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

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

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

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

Happy spinning!

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 missanything!
  • 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 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.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.

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.

Påsöm embroidery

For a long time I have been fascinated by påsöm. This embroidery technique involves abundant flowery motifs in rich, saturated colours. For my first påsöm embroidery project I decided to make a yoga mat and honour the yoga practice with soft, wooly stitches.

A woolen mat for yummy yoga practise.
A woolen mat for yummy yoga practise.

About påsöm embroidery

Påsöm is a composition of the words På (on top of) and Söm (seam or stitch), so a reasonable translation could with some imagination be surface stitch. The embroidery technique originates from the small village of Dala-Floda in county Dalarna in Sweden. The technique started being used in the mid 1800’s and is especially used in various parts of the traditional folk costume from the village. The yarns were imported and dyed with synthetic dyes. A bride usually made her betrothed mittens or suspenders with the påsöm technique. Many women in the early 20th century earned a living stitching påsöm embroideries on mittens and household textiles to sell.

At the last wool journey I made with my wool traveling club I got to fondle some truly remarkable finds of påsöm embroidered mittens in Karin Kahnlund’s massive collection of knitted items.

Materials

The foundation

Påsöm is embroidered on both two-end knitted items and wadmal or broadcloth. Both two-end knitting and broadcloth are perfect for this embroidery technique. The material is dense and inelastic, which allows for the stitches to be made very close to each other. This creates the rich and abundant, almost 3D texture in the motifs.

The material I had in mind for my embroidery was different, though. The scouring mill Ullkontoret sells a needle punch felt by the meter, made with Swedish wool. I usually make spindle cases from the felt, but someone came up with the idea to use it for a yoga mat, so I wanted to try that. After having cut out the yoga mat shape I needed I made a blanket stitch around the edges for protection. This yarn was my handspun (the only spinning related thing about this post).

The needle punch felt is looser and thicker than two-end knitting and broadcloth. The thickness requires more yarn and the looseness makes it a challenge to get the stitches as close to each other as I want. But I am the boss of my embroidery and I say my way works just fine in this context.

Yarn

The embroidery yarn I used for the motifs is a commercial yarn. To create the rich and billowy texture the yarn needs to be at least 4-ply and loosely plied. I didn’t want to sacrifice the påsöm look so I bought the yarn this time instead of trying to spin it myself. Perhaps I will have a go at spinning my own påsöm yarn one day, who knows. There are few yarns suitable for påsöm embroideries. One of the available yarns is the British Appleton tapestry wool, that worked really well.

Påsöm requires lots of colour and especially lots of green leaves. I went for reds, blues and greens in different shades and some white and yellow for details.

Motifs

Apart from the colours and the soft and airy yarn, the motifs and the composition of the motifs are important in påsöm embroidery. An abundance of flowers, bound together by rich greens is what you will be looking for.

I started with the center rose, added the pink flowers flanking it and then the pansies just below the front corners. After that I simply needed to add as many garlands, leaves and decorative flowers as possible and let them create a mass of flower extravaganza. And I did. For every part I added I took a step back and tried to find what and where my next move would be.

My favourite part to stitch were the little green heart-shaped leaves, especially the double ones just beneath the pansies. And I’m childishly charmed by the pink flowers on both sides of the center rose. And who wouldn’t be?

Templateless

I used the booklet Påsöm by Anna-Karin Jobs Arnberg to learn the stitches and motifs. The book suggests using transparent sheets to copy the shapes and a needle and Gellyroll pen to transfer the motif to the cloth. With a material like broadcloth or two-end knitting transferring templates would have been fairly easy. But the needle punch felt was way too fuzzy and the markings wouldn’t stick at all. Instead I tried to the best of my ability to draw the shapes directly onto the felt and accepted the wobbly shapes with an open heart.

For some of the more precise motifs I managed to draw something that resembled a contour with the gellyroll pen on the fuzzy felt surface.
For some of the more precise motifs I managed to draw something that resembled a contour with the gellyroll pen on the fuzzy felt surface.

Therapy stitches

I have chronic migraines and peaceful that usually last for several days. It is what it is. Crafting helps me stay sane during many of these episodes. I get very sound sensitive, especially to kitchen clatter and rustling paper bags. But wool is blissfully gentle and quiet.

This could actually be what migraine looks like from within.
When I turn the yoga mat upside down I realize that this could actually be what migraine looks like from within.

For the last couple of weeks I have turned to my påsöm embroidery numerous times for some soft and quiet migraine therapy. The repetitive motions, the slow process and, of course, the feeling of chunky wool in my hands give me some peace of mind. I didn’t keep track of the time I spent on this embroidery, but I don’t think I would be totally wrong if I estimated it to 20 hours.

Quiet yoga

The yoga mat is now finished with a lovely påsöm flower garland at the top and I’m very pleased with the result. The mat is slippery, though. It slips on the floor (which can be helped with a sticky mat underneath it) and my hands and feet slip on the surface in asana practice. For this reason I wouldn’t recommend the material for a moving practice. I would say this mat is more suitable for meditation, sitting postures, restorative yoga and yoga nidra. After all, these are the types of yoga I can practice when migraine hits me. What wouldn’t be more suitable then than a yoga mat stitched as migraine therapy.

Slow embroidery for slow and mindful practice.
Slow embroidery for slow and mindful practice.

Neither embroidery nor yoga help in migraine episodes. However, they do give me the peace of mind I need and lots of wooly comfort. And that is worth a lot.

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.

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.