Shopping trolley makeover

A person pulling a shopping trolley

I have a shopping trolley that I pack all my gear in when I teach spinning. It is lightweight and easy to bring on the metro or train. It can easily swallow three shoe boxes on top of each other, filled with spindles, cards, combs and other tools. This is the story of a shopping trolley makeover.

A shopping trolley makeover

Lately my shopping trolley bag has started to come apart and I decided it was time for it to retire. My husband suggested I look for a new one in wool. That was an excellent idea. The one I had was in some synthetic canvas which wasn’t climate friendly at all. When I browsed for a shopping trolley in wool, though, I couldn’t find one.

Creativity by bike

On an early bike ride to work I got an idea.  My 10 K morning bike ride to work is one of my most creative moments during the day and I usually get so much sorted out in my head on these rides. I direct and edit videos, brainstorm for new videos, outline articles and blog posts etc. When I get to work I just write all of it down and e-mail it to myself. This was one of those ideas. I was going to make a new trolley bag myself – I would just copy all the parts and measurements from the existing trolley bag and stitch them together.

I had seen a made-over shopping trolley before and fallen in love with the idea. A while ago, I took a wood-carving class, and the teacher had upcycled her shopping trolley. Instead of the regular canvas bag she had made one in woven birch bark. The handle was made of carefully carved wood with an ergonomical grip. It was really beautiful and personal. The idea of making one in my own crafting material made my heart jump with joy.

Wool needle punched felt

On a recent fiber event I passed by a vendor who sold needle punched felt in 100 percent wool from Swedish sheep. They sold it by the meter in large rolls. That would be a perfect material for my shopping trolley!

I bought a meter of medium felted needle punched felt. The material is about 6 mm thick and quite sturdy. However, it works excellent to hand sew in.

Cozy sewing

I measured the original shopping trolley bag and copied it right off (I did leave the cane compartment, though, I figured I wouldn’t need it for a while yet). Then I just used a simple backstitch to sew all the pieces together.

The sewing was actually really comfortable. I loved holding the thick wool in my hands and the needle went through the thick material with ease. I used glue clamps to pin the pieces together. And of course I used my handspun yarn for the seams, a 2-ply worsted spun yarn from the black parts of a Shetland flecked fleece.

A woolen shopping trolley in a beech forest.
A personalized shopping trolley, ready for teaching adventures. Photo by Dan Waltin

The compartment was made of a front and a back, two sides, a bottom and a top flap. The top flap closed with velcro. There were steel reinforcement frames in the front and back pieces. I made extra pockets on the tops of the front and back pieces for the frames to fit in. A shorter handle on the back of the bag and a longer on the front. A closing mechanism for the handles, secured with velcro. Two horizontal straps on the back piece held the bag securely on the trolley. After the pictures were taken I got rid of the ugly foam handle on the trolley and replaced it with a cozier one in the same material as the rest of the bag.

All that was left of the original trolley bag was a sad and hollow bundle of polyester canvas.

Embellishments

Needle felted logo

Before I sewed the bag, though, I had some decorations to make. First of all I needle felted my logo to the front of the bag. I tried to pre-trace the logo onto the felted material first, but it was way to fuzzy, so I had to needle felt it all off the cuff. I used a handspun rya yarn I had used earlier for a logo embroidery on my spinning apron.

A needle felted sheep logo
A needle felted logo. Photo by Dan Waltin

A spinner’s quote

After having finished the logo I thought it would be a shame to waste such a blank and lovely canvas. So I embroidered a quote on the closing flap. I used the same handspun yarn I had used for the seams.

I chose a spinning quote from Mahatma Gandhi. He was a spinner and wanted to liberate India from the British by non-violent civil disobedience and spinning. I found it quite fitting.

A quote embroidered on a felted material
‘Every revolution of the wheel spins peace, goodwill and love’. Photo by Dan Waltin

I couldn’t pre-trace on the lid either, so I had to embroider all the writing off the cuff as well. I used a simple backstitch. Embroidering handwriting by improvisation was really a challenge, but when the quote was all finished I was really happy with the result. Despite the rather uneven ‘handwriting’ I am quite fond of it. It has sort of an animated touch to it.

A shopping trolley makeover success

When the shopping trolley bag was finished I just slid it over the trolley handle. I fit like a glove and I was happy as a clam of my beautiful and personal trolley bag. The walls of the bag are really sturdy and it actually looks professional. I can’t wait to board the next train with my new traveling companion!

A person pulling a shopping trolley.
Off to new spinning adventures. Photo by Dan Waltin

A spindle case

I also got another idea. It may have come to me on another bike ride. I had fallen in love with the felted material and I didn’t want to stop sewing in it. So I came up with an idea to make a spindle case. Just a tube with a bottom, a lid and a loop strap for hanging or holding in your hand or sliding onto your belt.

A woolen tube with an embroidered flower
My pretty spindle house, ready for a house-warming party. Or, rather, a spindle warming party. The house is already warm and cozy. Photo by Dan Waltin

In afterthought, the rim of the lid was a bit too short. It is 3 cm and I should have made it around 5 cm. The top of the lid is a bit too small, which makes the rim point outwards a bit and result in an unsmooth fit. I’ll make some changes for my next spindle case!

More embroidery

I have not embroidered much, but a spindle case is a perfect opportunity to practice. And I did love sewing in the material, so there was no hesitation. This time, however, I didn’t use my handspun yarn for the embroidery. Instead, I used thrift shop embroidery flax yarn I found in the back of a cupboard. This case needed colour and most of my handspun is undyed. The silky linen yarn was a perfect match to the matte and sturdy feted wool.

As in my previous embroidery adventures with the needle punched felt I couldn’t pre-trace anything, so I just started with the center ring of a flower and improvised from there. The beauty of being a beginner at something is that you don’t know the rules and I could just make everything up as I went along. And I’m quite happy with the result.

A woolen tube with an embroidered flower
Photo by Dan Waltin

The flower reminds me of a pansy. The dangling tentacles are inspired by an anglerfish. You know, the deep-water fish that has sort of an antennae on the top of its head with a flashlight on it to lure its bait.

Decadent lining

I also chose to line the spindle case, for two reasons. First of all, the spindle would get stuck in the entangled mess at the back of the embroidery without a cover. Second of all, If I would keep some spinning fiber in the case (which I most definitely would), it would stick to the felted surface if I didn’t line it. Of course I didn’t want a synthetic lining material, so I bought a decadently pink silk lining and hand-stitched it to the inside of the tube before I assembled the case.

A woolen tube with silk lining.
Decadently pink silk lining in the spindle case. Photo by Dan Waltin

As a final touch, I cut out a circle of wool to put in the case as protection. This way I can put a small spinning bowl or puck/disk in the bottom of the case. If I put the wool circle on top of the bowl and then slide in the spindle I don’t have  to worry about any damage on the spindle tip.

Josefin Waltin sitting on a log in a forest. A shopping trolley and a tube case beside her.
Wool, spinning and a beech forest in autumnal colours. Couldn’t ask for more. Photo by Dan Waltin

I’m ready for my next spinning teaching adventure!

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Swedish fleece championships 2018

I wrote earlier about the Swedish spinning championships 2018. This post is about the Swedish fleece championships 2018.

A new dawn for Swedish wool?

On the one hand, it is sad that so much of Swedish wool goes to waste. Over 80 % of Swedish wool is wasted (here is a post about what I do with my wool waste). Partly because of the lack of profit for the sheep farmers and because of lack of an infrastructure for a fleece market.

But the knowledge, skills and love put in every single fleece at this event is truly astonishing and I see a strong will to cherish Swedish wool.

The competing fleeces

A table full of fleeces
The fleece table of the Swedish fleece championships 2018. Just look at that black rya at the bottom left!

Around 20 fleeces had entered the championships and with a wide variety of breeds, colours and mixed breeds. A silky rya fleece, black as the night, a fawn Swedish finull with unbelievably long staple, ridiculously soft Jämtland fleeces and so much more.

I spent a long time walking lap after lap around the fleece table just soaking it all in with all my senses (well not really all senses) – smelling the lovely sheep smell, looking at the different colours and structures, listening to the sound of my imaginary spindle spinning all the fleeces into their best yarns. And, above all, feeling the soft, springy, sturdy, silky, squishy, bouncy, creamy and beautiful fleeces with my happy hands.

A table full of fleeces
Jämtland fleeces at the end of the table.

An old friend

The light grey Jämtland in the picture above was ar real favorite for both visitors and jury – it received a silver medal and was sold for 140 € at the auction to two happy spinners who sisterly shared their loot. I have made its acquaintance before, though. The fleece is from the same sheep that provided me with the sweater I knit in my Slow fashion – from sheep to sweater video. The shepherdess Birgitta Ericsson got four awards for her fleeces – two medals, the people’s choice award and the best of all prize.

Finewool frenzies

I have a soft spot for Swedish finewool. The first fleece I ever bought and spun was a finewool fleece. Of course there were quite a few finewool fleeces at the championships.

A white finewool fleece
A beautiful and crimpy Swedish finewool fleece

I really loved the white Finewool fleece above. Long and crispy staples with a silky touch. This fleece got a gold medal. I can get high quality finewool fleeces at home, though, so I concentrated on other breeds at this event. But I can look and drool, can’t I?

A fawn finewool fleece
Finewool with an exceptional staple length

Another finewool fleece and silver medalist I just couldn’t take my eyes (and hands) off was this dreamy fawn one above. Look at that staple length! It must be nearly 15 cm, which is very unusual for this breed.

My precious

I did end up buying two fleeces at the auction. I had my eyes set on a few, but I could only get two home on the train (and into my fleece storage in the sofa bed).  My initial plan was to buy two white fleeces. I find it much easier to see white wool when I spin and I realize that this also goes for my videos and when I am teaching. White wool shows better on screen and will also be easier for my students to see.

The first fleece I bought was a white finull/rya mix breed with long and soft staples. Last year I also bought a finull/rya mix breed at the auction, and it was from the same shepherdess. She knows what she’s doing!

Finally, it was the amazing Åsen/Härjedal mix breed (25%/75%) in colours from chocolatey brown through rose grey to creamy white. The staples were amazing with their matte and sturdy looking cut end and wavy golden tip ends. And look at those sweet lamb curls! Just dreamy. I do realize that this fleece is not white. But can you blame me for wanting this beauty?

Ok, it’s time for a Swedish lesson. “Vill ha” is the translation to want. “Behöver” is the translation to need. Some genius came up with the fusion “villhöver”, which would translate into something like “I want it so much that I think I really, really need it”. I villhöver this fleece. End of story.

I just spent a couple of hours sorting the chocolate creamy fleece and I was constantly amazed by the colours and variations within the fleece and within the staples. The shepherdess didn’t really want to sell it, but she did part with it for me anyway. I hope she thinks I am a worthy spinner for her baby. The sheep’s name is Chanel.

Wool staples of different natural colours arranged in a Sul pattern.
Colour variations in one single fleece

To summarize, I had a few favourites and they all got medals. I guess I have some sort of feeling for what’s in a good fleece.

Spinning class

I was also at the championships as a spinning teacher. For the third year running I taught a class in supported spindle spinning at the championships. I had four eager students, some of whom had taken the class before. Two of them brought their own spindles, which they had bought from me two years ago. It felt good to see some of my first spindles again! The students were very happy with the course and they have all made great progress.

I love teaching. All my classes are for intermediate to advanced spinners and it is such a treat to just geek down in a subject with fellow geeks and really talented spinners. I learn something new every time and collect new pedagogical tools for my tool box. We dive head first into technique and function and my heart explodes with spinning joy.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend and I can’t wait for the 2019 championships.

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on 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.
  • 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. The content I create is totally free from advertisement. 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 posts and videos. My private Facebook page, however, will remain private.
  • If you like what I do, please tell all your fiber friends and share these links!

Logo embroidery

Embroidery is not my strongest textile technique. Sometimes, though,  an embroidery just needs to exist, and this was such a time. I needed to do some serious logo embroidery on a wool handling apron.

Josefin Waltin wearing an apron with an embroidered sheep
My wool handling apron with sheep logo. Photo by Dan Waltin.

The logo

You may have noticed my logo, the sheep with the spiral fleece.

A logo with a sheep and the text Josefin Waltin spinner

My retired father used to work as an art director and has made lots of logos and I asked him to make one for me. He presented several different ideas, but I fell for this one. It was finished in March and I am very fond of it.

Looking at it, I realized that it wouldn’t be very difficult to make an embroidery of it. I had the perfect wool for embroidery yarn – a strong and shiny white Rya. You have seen it in the Spinning around the world video I released in June. I spun it on a supported spindle and 2-plied it. In this blog post you can read more about the wool and the spinning.

Dyeing

The first step after spinning was getting the colour right. Dyeing is not my field of expertise, I dye when I need to. I use dyes from Greener Shades. I want to mix the colours myself, but I find it quite challenging. Sometimes I don’t see the colour until it’s all dyed. eventually I did get the colour right, but I dyed very little yarn, so it ended up very dark. On the second try I got it right.

a bit of felted wool and a skein of yarn hanging on a washing line
Newly dyed and dried. Rya embroidery yarn and wet felted undercoat for the head.

Looking at the pictures now, though, I see that it has a bit too little red in it. I will have to live with that.

A small skein of blue yarn on a stone
A pretty skein of Rya embroidery yarn

Logo embroidery

I borrowed an embroidery hoop from my friend Maria (who helped me with my medieval spinning video). My original plan was to use a stem stitch – I thought it would look nice on the moving wool spiral. But the yarn was far too thick for the fine linen on the apron and it just looked like croquet hoops. So I picked it up and started again, this time with a simple backstitch. It didn’t make the yarn any thinner of course, but it was easier to make the curves of the spiral look better.

An embroidery hoop with embroidery in blue yarn
Backstitching away

The face was a bit tricky. Originally, I had planned to fill the face with embroidery, but then my friend Elaine suggested that I use a piece of felted wool instead. And that was av very good idea. The felted piece got a little thick, but I can live with that too.

An embroidered sheep in an embroidery hoop
A finished embroidery

My father suggested beads for the eyes, which was just right.

I love my new apron and I feel like a proud entrepreneur when I wear it.

Close-up of a person wearing an apron with an embroidered sheep
My wool handling apron with logo embroidery. Photo by Dan Waltin

Happy spinning!


You can follow me on several social media:

  • My youtube channel is where I release a lot of my videos. Subscribe to be sure not to miss anything!
  • 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. You can subscribe or get an rss feed to be sure not to miss any posts.
  • I have a facebook page where I link to all my blog posts, you are welcome to follow.
  • On Patreon you can get early access to new videos. You can read more about my Patreon page here.
  • Follow me on Instagram.  I announce new blog posts and post lots of woolliness.

Willowing wool

Josefin Waltin sitting with a pile of wool. Locks are flying in the air around her.

Willowing wool is an ancient technique where you use two willow sticks (or some other bendy wood) to whip the wool. This helps to open up the locks, get air in to the wool and vegetable matter out.

An ancient technique

There are illustrations from the European middle ages of people willowing wool, but I can imagine the technique has been used ever since wool has been used for spinning. In my book Ull – hemligheter, möjligheter, färdigheter by Kerstin Gustafsson and Alan Waller, it says that wool beating used to be an occupation. The wool beaters usually also traded in wool, whipped it and blended to get an even quality. The finished blends would then be sold to mitten producers. Also, people would of course beat the wool in rural homes as a first step of processing their own wool.

The cover of a book. The cover has two hands with unspun wool between them. The back of a sheep in the background
Ull – hemligheter, möjligheter, färdigheter by Kerstin Gustafsson and Alan Waller. A Swedish wool rarity from 1987.

Five years ago I went to the west coast of Sweden together with my wool traveling friend Anna for a one-week spinning course. The teacher was Lena Köster, a Swedish master spinner. She taught us to whip the wool, and it was great fun.

The origin of a word

Since the technique has been performed with soft sticks, usually willow, it has been called willowing. This word root (!) has remained even after the start of the industrialism. A machine that was designated to open up the locks, remove vegetable matter and blend the wool was called a willowing machine, willy or willower. As a linguistic geek, I just love the substantial origin of the word.

The definition of the word willow, willy:
The origin of the word willow has ancient roots. From the Cassell Concise English dictionary.

Angels and devils

I was told that the flying locks used to be called angels. The higher the angels flew the more air had been let in to the wool and the better the wool was whipped. And they do look like angels – white, fuzzy  and endlessly beautiful. And, oh, another word for the willowing machine was devil. If you have ever seen a willowing machine (or a wool picker for that matter) you will understand. It looks like your average Tudor era torture tool.

The origin of a video

As it happened, I had a bunch of willow sticks lying around the house. I had made a low hurdle for a flower bed and bought willow sticks for this purpose. Yes, I shouldn’t need to buy sticks when there are lots of them in the woods, but I have made this hurdle several times with maple saplings, and it just won’t last. But I digress.

A willow hurdle around a flower bed
My sweet willow hurdle

It also happened that I had a fleece in the fleece storage (aka our sofa bed) that had a little too much vegetable matter in it. Recently, there has been lots of discussions on a facebook spinning forum about vegetable matter and the best way to get rid of it. I had suggested whipping the wool. so I had recently picked the thought up from deep within my memory storage.

Willowing wool – shooting

So, I picked a spot on our terrace to shoot a video of willowing wool, sat myself down on the floor and started willowing. It was a lot of fun. My daughter came by and helped me whip for a while. She said: ‘You look really happy, Mum, like a five-year-old who just got an ice-cream cone.’ Indeed. An ice-cream cone made of wool.

Josefin Waltin sitting on the ground, willowing wool
Willowing wool can be an adventurous affair with obtrusive angels attacking.

I shot the video from one angle unpaused. The whole uncut clip was about 50 minutes (I edited it down to four minutes). I spent a lot of that time gathering lost wool angels. There was a breeze, and I can vouch for that the time spent chasing wool increases proportionally to the increase of wind speed. This particular wind was a whimsical one, it had a hard time deciding where to blow.

Josefin Waltin sitting on the ground with wool in front of her.
Gathering lost angels

I got the music from the free music archive. Using the search words ‘fly’ and ‘high’, I found this beautiful harp piece by Anne van Schotorst. It’s called Birds came flying. I think it suited my flying angels quite well.

I hope you like the video.

Happy willowing!

 

 

Överjärva farm

A red farm building.

The farm

One of my favourite sheep hang-outs is Överjärva farm just outside Stockholm. There has been a farm at Överjärva for centuries. In the beginning of the 20th century it was the biggest farm in the parish. Today it’s a city farm with sheep, horses, chickens and organic farming.

A red wooden house with black doors. A sign post in the front.
Businesses around Överjärva farm

Kulturlandskaparna is the organization that looks after the sheep and works to maintain the farm and the biodiversity in the area. This is where I first learned how to spin, where I bought my first fleece (and a few more after that) and I took a course in small-scale sheep farming.

The shepherdess

The Patron and head sheeprdess of Överjärva is Ulla. She knows all the sheep by name. If you present a fleece to her she can name the sheep just by smelling it. She is passionate about the sheep and the landscape management. She passes on the knowledge about the importance of sheep by teaching young and old as much as she can about sheep and why we need them.

Ewes and lambs
Ewes and new lambs hanging out at the farm. Photo by Anna Herting.

At the farm, Ulla teaches kids to be helper shepherds and shepherdesses. For the moment there are only helper shepherdesses, and around 10–15 years old. They learn how to take care of the sheep and are a big help at the farm. It is also evident that the helper shepherdesses grow when they learn about how to take responsibility for the sheep.

With the sheep in the pasture

People come to the farm all year round to see the sheep. They are very used to humans and most of them love to be cuddled. During the lambing period in the spring they get privacy, though, but in the end of April it was the first day visitors were allowed to go in to the pasture and cuddle with ewes and lambs. Of course I was there.

Lambs and sheep
The lambs are curious about the two-legged sheep with funny-looking fleeces.

The big sheep walk

Moving the sheep

When the lambs are big enough and the grass has grown a bit after the winter, it is time to move the sheep and their lambs to their summer pastures. This is done on the great sheep walk in late May. Visitors are invited to take part in the move and walk all the sheep families through the neighbourhood to the fresh grass in the new pasture. Of course I was there to take part in the big sheep move.

Organizing the walk

The sheep walk is a whole machinery. The sheep families are moved from the farm pasture one at a time and assigned to a human family, and they all stay around the farm until every sheep is out. Anna, her family and I were in charge of the Swedish finewool sheep Anemone (you have seen her before, in this video) and her lambs Tim, Linus and Vilda.

Josefin Waltin walking with a black and white sheep in a leash.
Walking with Anemone and her lambs. Anemone is a Swedish finewool sheep and very friendly. Photo by Anna Herting

The sheep are a bit wild and difficult to handle at the beginning of the walk, but after a while they settle down. Since the walk goes through traffic, the sheep need to be led in in leashes. One human family family taking the responsibility for one sheep family. The sheep family must be held together with the ewe just in front of her lambs and you are not allowed to pass another sheep family. There can’t be a gap in the long row of sheep families. The herd strives to be together, and if there is a gap they will start to run to cover the gap. This can have chaotic consequences in a traffic environment.

One of the most difficult tasks on the sheep walk is to keep the sheep in the middle of the lane. If they go too far to either side, they will get close to the grass and all the work with keeping the sheep orderly is wasted.

Ulla, the head shepherdess, doesn’t walk with the sheep. She goes ahead in the car and organizes things at the pasture. Instead, the helper shepherdesses are in charge of the walk. And the y do it with great skill and pride. They watch all the families along the lines and make sure everything is in order, that the ewes is just in front of her lambs, that there is no gap in the lane and are always ready to give a hand when needed. The smaller children are in charge of stopping the traffic. When a car comes on the same road or when the caravan crosses a street, the kids stand broad-legged with their arms out to the sides to stop the cars and protect the caravan. They take their task very seriously.

Dancing in the streets

It is almost like a choreographed dance to keep all the sheep in the right place in relation to their families, other families and the road. But it is a dance I am happy to entertain the audience with. And there is an audience – all along the walk are happy citizens watching with their cameras ready. For some people watching the event is something they are looking forward to all spring. It certainly is for me as a participant.

Snack time

Half-way through the walk the whole caravan stops at a big castle park for a mid-walk snack. This is vital if the sheep are going to arrive to the new pasture without sheep chaos. The walk is about 5 km, mostly on asphalt and straining for them. With a grazing break they will get enough energy to walk the last bit without trying to escape to the grass every chance they get.

Summer pastures

After about 5 km and perhaps an hour’s walk, we are finally at the summer pastures. From this moment, everything goes very fast. When all the sheep are in the pasture, they go wild. At the same time, they have to be freed from their leash collars. When that is done, the whole event is over. But for the sheep, a whole summer of grazing awaits.

Video

I made a video of the visitors in the pasture and the great sheep walk. In the photo above you can see how I have attached my phone camera with a gorilla pod wrung around my bag strap.

I published the video and blog post yesterday, but I had to unpost it due to copyright violations. I had chosen an old folk tune for the video, Hårgalåten, performed by a well known Swedish key harpist Åsa Jinder. Due to the copyright violation the video wouldn’t be able to be viewed in some countries, one of them being the U.S. So I removed the video and replaced the tune with a song by Josh Woodward, from the free music archive.

Enjoy!

One year blog anniversary

A Navajo spindle. Photo by Dan Waltin

Time goes so fast – today is my one year blog anniversary. My first post was about how I started spinning. And so much has happened since then. At this moment there have been over 16600 views of the blog, which is truly mind-blowing. People from over 80 countries in all continents have visited my site and I have somehow managed to write over 90 posts.

The power of words

I started the blog to be able to write more. I have always loved shaping language with my hands and my mind. But it turned out to be so much more.

When I write, I mold new ideas, follow new paths and get the opportunity to follow my curiosity. Right now I have 15 drafts of ideas I would like to develop and blog about. Just thinking about something might get me somewhere, but writing forces me to finish a thought and develop it. When you read my posts and ask questions, comment or share your ideas it gives me the chance to investigate, develop and play with an idea even further. You help me shape new ideas and spark my curiosity.  Many times your questions or comments have resulted in a whole new post or spinning study.

Beautiful support

Since I have lots of readers I feel a responsibility to make thorough research before I write something. This teaches me so much and I am constantly trying to dig deeper and analyze more in a topic. I also get more and more comfortable to try new concepts without having a given answer. I feel that I can safely investigate a topic without knowing the outcome and still know that you are with me.

The beginning of a journey

Every time I write a blog post I am amazed at all the possibilities that lie in front of me, like a big bowl of candy in bright and shiny colours. I think of new ways I can explore, investigate, play and – above all – learn from all these little seeds of wooly wonders.

I feel that my blogging journey has just begun. So far it has been a wonderful ride and I look forward to what’s next.

I hope you have enjoyed it too.

From the bottom of my wooly heart:

Thank you.

A heart of wool in the grass
My wooly heart.

Featured image by Dan Waltin

Flicking tips

A ball of wool

After a discussion in a Facebook spinning group about solidified grease in the tips of a fleece, I decided to do a mini study of different ways to prepare a fleece for spinning. I have a fleece of my own that is wonderfully clean but has tips with solidified grease.

The fleece

On the last wool journey with my wool traveling club, I bought a beautiful NKS fleece. NKS stands for Norsk kvit sau: Norwegian white sheep. This is basically what crossbreds are called in Norway. The fleece I chose had a full year’s growth.

In Sweden most sheep are shorn twice a year, which naturally makes the fleece shorter. This means that the fleece shorn in the early spring is of worse quality (since all the nutrients go straight to the lamb) and usually has more vegetable matter (because the sheep have spent much of the winter indoors). The fleece shorn in the autumn has better quality (since the sheep has no lamb to nourish) and less vegetable matter (since the sheep are out grazing). So: Twice a year gives a better but shorter autumn fleece. Once a year gives a longer fleece but can be more mixed in quality.

Lanoliny tips

The fleece was wonderfully clean and shiny with staples of around 12 cm. The tips, though, were greasy. I think that the Norwegian rain had pushed all the lanolin out into the tips. I washed the fleece straight away by soaking it in rain water. It wasn’t until recently (one year after I bought the fleece) that I started processing, and by then the greasy tips had solidified.

Experiment: Flicked vs unflicked tips

I wanted to make an experiment and compare different preparation methods. First, I prepared the way I usually do with a fleece I want to comb: Loading the combs with the cut ends on the tines and combing three passes, then pulling the wool off the comb in one long top.

Combing this way was a struggle. It took a lot of muscle power to get the combs through the wool. And after three passes it was not nearly in a condition I could approve (I always do an uneven number of passes so that I pull the wool off the combs from the cut ends). So, I did five passes. Pulling the wool off the comb was also difficult, the wool was still uneven with bits of solidified gunk left. I picked as much of it out, but there was still stuff left when I spun the top, which of course interrupted my spinning flow.

When you play the videos, a captions symbol appears to the left of the settings symbol. Click or unclick the captions, depending on your preferences.

This was not a pleasant combing experience. So, I tried a different way. I flicked the solidified grease ends before combing. Combing the staples with the tip ends flick carded was a whole different experience.

A lot of gunk was left in the flicker and the floor was sprayed with gunk powder.

A floor dirty with wool waste.
Powdered gunk and gunky flicker waste.

The combing was easy and pleasant after flick carding the tips and I was perfectly happy after my usual three passes. Pulling the wool off the combs was also nice and smooth and the spinning was uninterrupted and yummy.

A skein of white handspun yarn.
A finished skein of fingering weight 2-ply NKS wool, spun with short draw from hand combed tops on a spinning wheel. 194 m, 70 g, 2766 m/kg.

I spun the skein above with both of the preparation techniques. Mostly the flicked version, though, since I only combed a couple of bird’s nests with the tips unflicked. I also knitted a swatch with the finished yarn.

A knitted swatch
A knitted swatch, 25 stitches and 39 rows in 10×10 cm

Other ways to use a flick card

This was one example where flick carding the tips made a big difference for the preparation and spinning experience. I also use my flick card for several other purposes:

  • To remove brittle tips. If I have a fleece with fine fibers and brittle tips I can use the flick card on the tip ends. The brittle tips will end up in the card instead of the yarn (as nepps).
  • To flick both ends of a staple. Sometimes I want to spin from the lock. A flick card is a good tool to separate the fibers in individual staples and spin staple by staple.
  • To tease staples before carding. This might take time, but will give a good result. Fibers that are too short, brittle or dirty will stay in the flick card and the good stuff will go to carding.

Do you use your flick card for other purposes?

Tech stuff

In these videos I have played with both narration and captions. As you may know, I want to shoot my videos outside if possible. But the area around our house is quite noisy. In the background on the other side of the lake you can see the most intense motorway in Sweden, and it makes a lot of noise. Also, we live close to a city airport and the planes fly just above our house, it’s almost like we can tickle the planes on the bellies if we stretch enough. This is why I wanted to try to narrate the clips. And I think it worked out.

In a previous video where I tested my makeshift studio, I added equally makeshift captions. Since then, my editing software has upgraded with a function for closed captioning. Yay! I think they work too.

Please let me know if there is anything of the technical stuff I can improve.

51 yarns

51 yarns to spin before you cast off. Book by Casey Boggs Faulkner

I’m taking part in Ply magazine‘s 51 yarns spinalong on Instagram. It is called 51 yarns after the book 51 yarns to spin before you cast off by Jacey Boggs Faulkner. The book is described as a list of spinning adventures that every spinner should embark on. The weekly spinalong has its foundation in one of the chapters in the book. I have participated in week 1 (your default yarn), 2 (while at a retreat or event) and 3 (from fiber you have processed) bookless, but today the book found its way across the pond and landed in my letterbox. Are you joining me? Check out my Instagram and spin along! Are you not joining me? Check out my Instagram and spin anyway!

Wip series: Finished twined knitting mittens!

Two grey mittens

I have finally finished my twined knitting mittens!

This is the fifth and final post in my wip series of spinning for and knitting a pair of twined knitting mittens. The previous posts are about preparing, spinning, plying and knitting.

A lot of joy

I am very happy with the result. They were a true joy to knit. But, as always, there is a melancholy and a sense of loss when finishing a project. There are so many thoughts in a project. Practical thoughts like the next step in the project, how to avoid mistakes, but also all the thoughts that float around in my mind in the making. Things I hear, think or experience while I make are things that are captured in the thread and, literally, woven in to the fabric. In this sense, the finished item is so much more than a pair of mittens. It is a sparkling weave of skill, experience, memories, thought processes, love and emotions. And I treasure them all in my wooly, twined knitted treasure box.

Even if I miss the process of making, I do get to relive all the emotions and sensations that are a part of the mittens. Every time I wear them.

A lot of time

Twined knitting does take a lot of time to make, but the reward is such a sturdy and strong fabric.  And once I was over the initial novelty of the technique (which isn’t all new to me, but the last time I did twined knitting was in 2010), I found a nice rhythm of knitting, twining and untwisting.

A lot of yarn

I used 2 mm needles, which was perfect for this yarn. As you can see, the fabric is very dense on the surface. When you turn the mitten inside out you can see the beautiful ridges, caused by the twining. These also add to the density of the mittens.

Close-up of a grey mitten turned inside-out.
The inside of the mittens show the beautiful ridges created by the twining of the two working yarns.

When I first read the pattern I was a bit sceptical to the yarn requirements – 60 g per mitten seemed a lot to me. After a while I started worrying about having spun too little yarn! But when I had woven in the last yarn end I did have some yarn left, just enough to make a handful of pin loom squares.

The pattern

I used a basic mitten pattern from Berit Westman’s booklet Tvåändsstickning. She has a lot of examples of charted chain path patterns. For the cuffs I made a simple xo pattern from the book. This doesn’t show very well even after blocking. For the back of the hands I wanted something special, so I made my own pattern. I wanted the mittens to represent all the strong and talented textile workers through history. When I had finished the chart, I realized that it was International women’s day, which was very suitable.

A grey mitten with a venus symbol
A venus symbol. The perfect mitten chart. Photo by Dan Waltin

Felting

I struggled with the thought of felting the mittens for extra strength and durability. I had felted my first two pairs of twined knitting mittens. But already at the spinning stage I got a strong feeling of the wool being really prone to felting. It was quite sticky in all the parts of the process and I handled the yarn very carefully. I feared that if I felted the mittens, there was a strong risk of over felting. Also, since I had worked with the structure and colour of the yarn from the very beginning, I wanted the yarn to be the star of the show.

Evaluation

The colour

I do love the variegated colour of the yarn and it looks beautiful in the mittens. Especially in the pattern parts. The mixture of greys and the light golden brown gives the fabric a lovely depth. I am a sucker for greys!

The ply

As you can see in the pictures of the finished yarn, It was quite loosely spun and plied. This goes hand in hand with the wool, that was almost straight. I did over ply the yarn after it was balanced, to compensate for the unplying made by the twining. I don’t think it would have hurt to over ply a little more than I did.

The fabric

I think this is the most even I have ever knit. I think it is easier to make a more even and tight fabric with twined knitting than with regular knitting, since it is easier to pull the thread after each stitch. Also, I love the mixture of plain twined knitting and the blocks of pattern knitting. The squiggly horizontals are well matched with the straight verticals.

Close-up of a grey twined knitting mitten.
The pattern and the colour variations really make the wool justice.

The feeling

When I was preparing the wool and saw the black guard hairs I was afraid that the mittens would be itchy. But they are not. It is just that silky feeling of the under coat. The guard hairs just add a strength bonus. That’s a well behaved yarn! When I wear the mittens I pet the silky ridged insides with my hands. I feel rich.

The works

All in all, I think these mittens are in the top five of myfavourite hand spun projects and I smile every time I wear them. I feel proud and humbled to have the knowledge and skills to create something like this, like thousands of women (and a few men) have done before me.

What is your favourite hand spun project?

Happy spinning!

A pair of twined knitting mittens hanging from a tree branch.
Spring is coming and it’s a happy mitten day!

Wip series: First z-ply skein finished

A skein of grey yarn rolled up into a bundle.

It’s micro snowing today! See the tiny snowflakes in the yarn on the featured image? Anyway, about a week ago the first s-spun single for my twined knitting mittens project was full. Today I present the first finished z-ply skein.

A skein of yarn in shades of grey.
A finished skein of z-plied yarn of Värmland wool. Fingering weight, 148 m, 61 g, 2443 m/kg.

Characteristics

The yarn is totally without bounce, which isn’t surprising, given the wavy, almost straight character of the staples. It is really silky and strong, which is a combination of the soft and silky undercoat and the long and strong outercoat. As you can see in the pictures, there are some guard hairs that are misbehaving, but I don’t see them as a problem. I really like the way the colour variations came out. I’m painting pictures in my head with the knitted fabric as the canvas in endless variations of grey. I think this will make a great yarn for my twined knitting mittens.

Technique

I spun the singles with my left hand as spinning hand. That way I could pull the spindle counter-clockwise. It was a really nice experience and felt light and right.

I used the same spindle for both singles, so each single was transfered onto an empty toilet paper roll when finished. That way I could start plying from the same end as I started spinning. I learned somewhere that the yarn will hold together better that way.

When it came to plying, I switched hands so that I plied clockwise with my right hand as the spinning hand, again pulling the spindle. I didn’t experience any pain in any hand. Well, to tell the truth, I did get a bit sore on the skin of the fingertip of my right index finger from two straight hours of plying, but that was just stupidity, don’t tell anyone.

A spindle full of grey yarn
A very full spindle – 60 grams of yarn on a 24 gram spindle (Malcolm Fielding).

Next step

Since I want to knit both mittens at the same time, I can’t start knitting until the second skein is finished. And I’ve already started spinning the third spindle. It’s a really nice project to work with. I comb a few locks, spin them, comb some more and so on.

Gotta go, I’ve got some more s to spin.

Happy spinning!