When I explore a fleece I try to document my work in a way that suits me. For the past few years I have made wool boards. Or that’s what I call them. They remind me of mood boards, only with wool.
I’m sure there are other names for ways to display wool, samples and swatches as a form of fleece note taking. Wool board is just a name I have chosen for my purposes.
The first wool board I made was for one of my earliest videos, Slow fashion 2 – from sheep to shawl. Or, it was more a book than a board. The book worked as a sample and swatch documentation, script, weaving plan and table of contents for the video. In the book I kept staples, yarn samples and several swatches where I experimented my way to the techniques that gave me the structure and drape that I wanted in the shawl.
Explore and progress
As I worked with the samples in the book I realized how much I learned through making and reflecting over real samples and swatches. Since I wanted the book to be a living documentation through the video I needed to present my progress properly and have something intelligent to say. Just like when I write blog posts, knowing that I need to present something interesting and educational makes me reflect more and understand more about my own process.
After that I have found a wool board format that suits me. I don’t make one for every fleece I work with, but I usually do for special projects, first time explorations, magazine articles or for educational purposes.
When to display
Sometimes I have gone through the fleece and experimented to some extent before I make the wool board. If you haven’t already you can join the Fleece through the senses five-day challenge. In the challenge I invite you to explore your fleece on your level and with the tools you have. It will give you an idea of what your fleece has to offer and how you can make it shine. A wool board is a nice way to finish the challenge to celebrate the wool and what you have learned from it.
Other times I have made a more elaborate investigation of the fleece and in both practical and theoretical ways. In the course Know your fleece I invite you to go deeper into the fleece, explore and experiment on a more elaborate level and plan how to work with the whole fleece. One of the final assignments will result in a wool board.
Regardless of whether I spend more or less time with the fleece leading up to the wool board I do do a lot of investigating of the fleece before landing in my wool board display. I don’t go through this lightly – I spend the time I need for getting to know the fleece, looking for its soul. I need to feel grounded in my approach to the fleece and make it justice as a yarn and project.
What to display
I typically make the wool board after I have experimented my way to a yarn and structure I want to work with. Perhaps I’m not planning on spinning the whole fleece right away. In those cases the wool board is an important map for me once I do dive into the fleece again. Suddenly I have a neatly organized manual to work from.
I display the things I think are important and interesting on my wool board. I write a few words about what I have done and learned, but also thoughts about techniques tools, designs and images of a future project. You can read more about how I keep record of my fleeces in this blog post. Another useful post to read is fleece happens, where I go through the steps I take from getting a raw fleece to my house to storage in the fleece queue in my sofa bed. A wool board can be made. before storing, to keep me updated once I pick the fleece up for processing.
Gute and Gotland
For an article I wrote for Spin-Off magazine I compared fleeces from Gotland and Gute sheep. I wanted to show the differences between two breeds that have a common history, one breed ancient and one relatively new. I remember the Gotland locks being felted at the cut ends and very unruly. By teasing the locks with a flicker before combing I realized I could ease the strain on my wrists and end up with less waste. That wool is now a shiny sweater.
By fulling a woven gute sample for the wool board I saw its potential as a wadmal cloth rather than an untreated knitting structure. I have finished a weave with this wool and I’m hoping to be able to full it in a fulling mill.
As I worked with a white Värmland fleece I realized that it was very prone to felting. I decided to use this characteristic to my advantage and experimented my way into a singles yarn that I fulled lightly by shocking it in hot and cold water.
I was teaching a live online course when I experimented with this fleece. The goal of the course was to make a wool board from the exploration, experimentation and planning with each student’s own fleece. I decided to work along my students, do all the classes myself and end up with a wool board of my own. The wool board may look simple, but there are lots of work and insights behind the visual display that I can relate to and keep in store in my experience bank.
A yarn road map
Before I found the perfect thickness and structure for my Margau Beta sweater I made several samples, some too thin, some too bulky and one just perfect. On the wool board it’s just a few sad little yarn samples, but behind that is a long process of both sense and sensibility.
The fleece was my first experimentation with blending wool with recycled sari silk at the teasing stage. This too was based on extensive experimentation – how much sari silk do I want? How do I balance quality and waste when the silk fibers are so short? What kind of knitting structure do I want?
Silk, kemp and vm
A few months ago I bought another gute fleece that I had just seen on Instagram. The fleece was full of vegetable matter and I experimented my way into removing as much as possible with as little waste as possible. I also played with blending sari silk with the both soft and rustic gute wool. Experimentation with fulling gave me a lovely structure that I hadn’t thought of before.
All this experimentation is carefully noted and displayed on the wool board. When it’s time to work the rest of the fleece I have the wool board as a reminder of the process I went through when I experimented. And a couple of blog posts about it all.
I want my wool boards to be both inviting and useful. But also I want it to be a celebration of my teacher and working partner, the fleece. Through exploring, playing and experimenting I have been able to slowly and mindfully find clues to how to best approach this individual fleece, how to show its superpowers and make it shine. Together with sensible numbers and an artistic impression this more spiritual connection to the wool makes the wool board complete, at least for me and my purposes with a wool board.
A learning process
I want to show the working process from staples to a few swatches on my wool boards. But more than that it’s a display of my thought process and my own development together with the fleece. My exploration, experimentation, mind maps and mistakes are all there, manifested through carefully displayed samples, swatches and notes.
The important insights and the real work are all in my mind and my hands. The wool board just a faint reminder of what I have learned through being in the wool and listening to it. Hopefully I can make it justice too.
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