It may seem strange to talk of a journey in these days, but my wool traveling club managed to make one with proper social distance. In this post I tell you all about the wool journey 2020.
The wool traveling club
The wool traveling club consists of five spinners and knitters – Anna, Boel, Kristin, Ellinor and me. These talented women are my sisters in craft. We save money separately each month and go for a wool journey together. The wool journey is a highlight of the year. It is a time to come together, talk, learn, talk some more and just enjoy being around people with a deep knowledge and passion about wool.
The purpose of the club is to be able to learn more about wool and spinning on our level. Since there are five of us we can hire a teacher we like and have them customize course for us. You can read about our previous wool journeys here: 2019 in Åsebol with Lena Köster, 2018 at Utsikten, 2017 in Åsebol with Kia Gabrielsson Beer, 2016 at Solkustens spinning mill and 2015 in Shetland.
Wool journey 2020
This year the wool journey was a bit different. First of all, we realized that we may not be able to go at all this year, but in the end we decided to go. Second of all, it was in my home town, so I actually rode my bike to the castle we were staying at, which turned out to be very appropriate in the circumstances.
Third, only three of us were physically there. Kristin couldn’t make it this year and Anna got something that may or may not have been a sore throat and decided to take the class from home via FaceTime. She also joined us in the evenings at the castle via FaceTime.
Early in the fall we decided to ask Karin Kahnlund if we could hire her for the wool journey 2020. She is a renown knitter and knitting teacher, specializing in the old technique tvåändsstickning, or two-end knitting in English (also known as twined knitting). In twined knitting you use two yarn ends that are wound around each other at the purl side, creating horizontal ridges that make the fabric durable and wind proof.
This was the first time the wool journey didn’t involve spinning. But Karin is such a talented knitter and knitting teacher and twined knitting is something I love to do with my handspun yarn so I was thrilled when Anna confirmed that Karin agreed to teach us.
You can see a video I made about two-end knitting here. I have also published a pattern for a pair of half mitts in two-end knitting. Another pair of handspun mittens are here.
Karin Kahnlund is one of the most knowledgeable people in two-end knitting in Sweden and has written and participated in several two-end knitting books. She also has a large collection of old items in two-end knitting from the 19th and 20th century. Some of the items have been given to her and some she has found in craft stores and antique shops around the county of Dalarna where the technique seems to have been most common. A while back I visited the study collection at Sätergläntan and could fondle the two-end knitted items with gloved hands. In Karin’s studio you are allowed to fondle gloveless.
Two-end knitting was typically used for traditional bodice sweaters (livtröjor) in the county of Dalarna in Sweden. The bodices were machine sewn in broadcloth by tailors. Each parish had its own pattern tradition. The pattern in the sleeves above is typical of Gagnef parish. Below are sleeves from different parishes. They could be totally different eventhough the parishes may have been right next to each other.
A woman who married a man from another parish would leave her old jacket and start wearing handed down jackets from her new parish.
The sleeves were knit in black and white yarn and then dyed red. Of course Karin has found an undyed sleeve to show us.
Mittens were also common to knit in two-end knitting. Some used for hard work in the woods (common in Norway) and some for Sundays in church. These were white for women and blue for men. Patterns could be knit and/or embroidered in bright colours.
The work a woman or girl invested in her mittens could be a ticket to a good marriage – a well decorated mitten showed a woman that could provide the family with warm clothes. Mittens with lots of yarn showed wealth – I can afford this much wool on my mittens.
A very special embroidery technique that is suitable for the strong and inelastic two-end knitted fabric is påsöm, common especially in Dala-Floda in Dalarna. This is a very rich technique where the crafter uses 4-ply lofty yarn in bright colours to embroider in thick layers. These mittens were dying to be shown off at church.
When it came to the marriage market you couldn’t leave anything to chance – the thumb was also richly embroidered. You don’t throw these away when there is a hole. Instead, you will carefully mend it, like shown below.
Karin also showed us two sets of mittens that had belonged to a woman named Alma. The name was knit on the back of the hand. They were knit in 1928 and had been worn and mended with lots of love. Another pair, also with Alma’s name, was knitted in 1943 with cheaper yarn. But apparently the first pair had been saved, perhaps out of respect for the warmth they had given her for so many years.
It is quite easy to loose yourself in Karin’s wonderful collection. But we did knit too. We all practiced different things. Boel combined 2-colour two-end knitting with crook stitch patterning for a pair of wrist warmers to use in her new electric car. The colours even matched the interior of the car! Ellinor chose a colour patterning typical of jacket sleeves for her mittens. Anna knitted a crook stitch pattern at home.
I also made wrist warmers. I practiced my crook stitches. The pattern for my wrist warmers will be available in the book I am writing together with Sara Wolf.
In my experience, crafting brings people together and opens up minds. We had such a lovely time knitting and talking about our textile heritage, family and the joys and sorrows in our lives.
Apart from practicing two-end knitting I wanted to learn more about the yarn. I have spun yarn for two-end knitting a few times, but I wanted Karin’s view on my yarns. I also wanted to know what she is looking for in a yarn for two-end knitting. The most important difference from most knitting yarns is that it is Z-plied. It needs to be strong enough to hold and still not too coarse. A slight over twist can be a good idea since the yarn will untwist itself.
Karin approved of the handspun yarn I used for my jacket sleeves. When I compared my yarn with the commercial Z-plied yarn I used for the wrist warmers I could see the difference in twist. The commercial yarn had more twist than my handspun, making the arches in the crook stitches rounder and more defined.
Another, rather painful matter was the jacket sleeves I have been knitting off and on for almost a year now. I realized that they were too narrow over the elbows and upper arms. I knew I needed to rip the sleeves but I didn’t want to do it. But I decided to ask Karin about the best way to store the ripped yarn and how to best make the sleeves fit better.
When you two-end knit you use both ends of a center-pull ball. I thought I would need to unpick each thread separately and rewind them, but Karin had a much easier solution. I should just rip back the threads together and wind them in a new ball together. That way they would keep their twist and their relationship to each other. I ripped back a third of the sleeve length. I didn’t bother soaking the yarn to remove the squiggliness. There is a tiny difference between the neutral and squiggly yarns but it will disappear after soaking the sleeves.
With the too narrow sleeves I had increased every 10th row and I will now increase every 5th and try them on as I knit to find a comfortable fit.
All in all it was a lovely wool journey. The second I had said good bye to my wool travelers I missed them, like I always do. For the coming year we will fondly remember our past wool journeys while longingly planning the next.
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